I am an early riser. I used to be at may
computer before 5:00 a.m. in my faculty office.
In retirement I'm at my computer before 4:00 a.m. in my front porch.
In all seasons I watch the sun rise up over the Presidential, Twin, and Kinsman
Every sunrise is unique, and the best sunrises are aided by ever-changing cloud
I hope that each sunrise in 2008 will bring more peace, sanity, and prosperity
to the entire world.
on January 3, 2007 [ Temperature -23.2 F, Winds (NW) 67.8 mph -72.5 mph,
Wind Chill -68.3°F ]
December 31, 2007 edition of Fraud Updates is now available at
Links to my other fraud modules can be found at
Auntie Bev, an
avid Web surfer, forwarded "Fascinating Statistics" ---
Auntie Bev left
one "fascinating statistic" out of the above list --- her age!
But guess what she's holding up in her (home) Florida birthday party picture?
Is she really telling the truth or should I also cross out the second number
on the sign?
Zaba says she was born
in 1940. I'm still trying to get verification of this from
Hundreds of her forwarded humor messages over the past decade are available at
Thank you Bev for all the laughs and cheers you've shared with us via email over the years!
Please keep hitting the Send button!
Happy New Year from Auntie Bev ---
Auld Lang Syne ---
The Seven Ups of Life ---
Tidbits on January 4, 2008
Videos From Bob Jensen's Personal
Camera (the pictures are clear but some of them lost a bit in the video) ---
The Tidbits.wmv video is narrated.
For earlier editions of Tidbits go to
For earlier editions of New Bookmarks go to
Click here to search Bob Jensen's web site if you have key words to enter ---
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
Bob Jensen's past presentations and lectures
Bob Jensen's Threads ---
Bob Jensen's Home Page is at
You can read about Erika's surgeries and see
her pictures at
Personal pictures are at
Some personal videos are at
Bob Jensen's blogs and various threads on many topics ---
(Also scroll down to the table at
Set up free conference calls at
While working on the computer, Bob Jensen mostly
listens to (free and without commercials) ---
Google Maps Street View ---
World Clock ---
Six Tips to Protect Your
Search Privacy ---
If you want to help our badly injured troops, please check out
Valour-IT: Voice-Activated Laptops for Our Injured Troops ---
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 ---
Google, on the heels of a
report released this week that says most users—many
of them college students—don’t worry about their personal information showing up
through search engines, announced a
new series of videos meant to educate users on
Google’s privacy settings. The series, appearing on YouTube’s
Google Privacy Channel, is part of the
corporation’s effort to raise awareness about how users can control their
personal information when using Google’s products, according to the Official
Google Blog. The videos cover different topics, like how users can manage their
search histories and adjust cookie preferences, enhancing users’ control over
how their personal information is displayed.
Chronicle of Higher Education, December 20, 2007 ---
Jeff Dunham (watch his eyebrows late
in the video) ---
I WANNA BE LIKE OSAMA ---
Warning: Neither of the above humor videos is politically correct.
Danny Divito Says Amen to Investing More and More in a
Shrinking Market ---
(Link forwarded by the Financial Rounds blog on December 29, 2007 ---
Shocking Economics ---
(Link forwarded by the Financial Rounds blog on December 29, 2007 ---
Alternate Ending to the Wizard of Oz ---
Partying Accountants (video links forwarded by David Albrecht)
David Letterman's Top Ten Accountant
Pick-Up Lines ---
Bob Jensen's threads on accounting humor are
LocateTV will search over 3 million TV listings across all
channels in your area
Type in the name of a TV show, movie, or actor
Locate TV will find channels and times in your locale
Free music downloads ---
Indiana University Men's Choral Group has
a very funny montage of Christmas music ---
409 (Beachboys) ---
The cars we drove in 1950s and 1960s
The 45s of 1960s ---
Dion DiMucci used to sing rock 'n' roll hits:
That's him on "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer." But he says he's always really
been a blues singer. His new CD, Son of Skip James, is his second blues album
Hank Williams Sr. ---
Hank Williams Jr. ---
Hank Williams III ---
I Love It
Hank Williams Jr, and tiny Hunter Hayes (Jambalaya) ---
Bob Jensen listens to music free online (and no commercials)
Photographs and Art
Online Books, Poems, References, and Other Literature
In the past I've provided links to various
types electronic literature available free on the Web.
I created a page that summarizes those various links ---
Electronic Literature Directory ---
Million Book Project Reaches 1.5 Million Book Mark
From the Carnegie Mellon newsletter...
Anthology of English Literature ---
Famous Quotes ---
Grandma's Washday Poem ---
Fascinating Statistics ---
Pitchfork Media ---
Find over 500 biographies of the most important
Internet Book List ---
Classics Archives from MIT ---
The Free Library ---
Eye on Europe: prints, books & multiples / 1960 to
Short Story Classics ---
“How many professors does it take to change a light
Answer: “Whadaya mean, “change”?”
Bob Zemsky, Chronicle of Higher
Education's Chronicle Review, December 2007 ---
No longer master of my fate,
No more the captain of my cash,
Soon I'll pass through the peon's gate,
But until then -- a plastic bash!
Dana Cimilluca, "Debt Poets Society:
Credit Crisis Goes From Bad to Verse Financiers Pen Cheeky Odes On the Market's
Mayhem; 'I Pass Through Peon's Gate'," The Wall Street Journal, December
24, 2007; Page A1 ---
In the World War I trenches British and German troops sang Christmas carols
to each other during a temporary holiday truce. They also played soccer before
returning to their respective gun positions and began, under orders from their
generals, to commence shooting at each other
One has to wonder if the truce would've been extended if the generals were
required to fight hopelessly in the trenches.
The Iowa Scam: The undemocratic caucuses are a terrible way to choose a
It is quite astonishing to see with what deadpan and
neutral a tone our press and television report the open corruption—and the
flagrantly anti-democratic character—of the Iowa caucuses. It's not enough that
we have to read of inducements openly offered to potential supporters—I almost
said "voters"—even if these mini-bribes only take the form of "platters of
sandwiches" and "novelty items" (I am quoting from Sunday's New York Times).
It's also that campaign aides are showing up at Iowan homes "with DVD's that
[explain] how the caucuses work." Nobody needs a DVD to understand
one-person-one-vote, a level playing field, and a secret ballot. The DVD and the
other gifts and goodies (Sen. Barack Obama is promising free baby-sitting on
Thursday) are required precisely because none of those conditions applies in
Iowa. In a genuine democratic process, these Tammany tactics would long ago have
been declared illegal. But this is not a democratic process, and besides, as my
old friend Michael Kinsley used to say about Washington, the scandal is never
about what's illegal. It's about what's legal.
Christopher Hitchens, "The Iowa
Scam: The undemocratic caucuses are a terrible way to choose a
presidential candidate," Slate, December 31, 2007 ---
Unlike Iowa, New Hampshire has a true primary with a ballot available to every
voter. New Hampshire's record is also better for selecting winners than the
Corny State. Iowa hasn't voted in a winning candidate since Jimmy Carter in a
year (1976) with little competition. Carter later failed in his bid for a second
term. In 1980 Ronald Reagan totally ignored the Iowa causes. Reagan lost in
Iowa, but ultimately beat the incumbent (Carter.)
Iowa had caucuses in the 1800s even before Iowa became a state in 1846. A Brief
History of the Iowa Caucuses ---
One year, in 1916, Iowa instead held a primary election. Less than 25% of
eligible voters bothered to vote. Iowa later returned to the caucus system where
even less voters are allowed to vote.
Normally, when politicians make predictions, events
make them look foolish. But there's been one forecast from a politician in the
past 12 months which has proved the prediction of the year. At the beginning of
2007, David Miliband was reflecting on the low ratings of then Prime Minister
Tony Blair. He suggested that unpopularity was just a feature of incumbency. He
predicted that within a year, people would be saying, "Wouldn't it be great to
have that Blair back because we can't stand that Gordon Brown." Less than a year
later, Mr. Miliband is foreign secretary in Gordon Brown's government. And their
administration is so mired in unpopularity that it's actually below the level in
the opinion polls Mr. Blair touched at his nadir. What makes this all the more
ironic is the casual assumption of so many in the Labour Party that a simple
change in personnel at the top, and a new direction in foreign policy, would
revive their fortunes. The standard view on the left put Labour's unpopularity
down to Mr. Blair's closeness to President Bush, his support for the Iraq war,
and his subsequent solidarity with Israel during its war with Hezbollah in the
summer of 2006. From the very moment Mr. Brown took over, he indicated a
different foreign policy direction, one that acknowledged the legitimacy of the
left's criticism against Mr. Blair.
Michael Gove, "Down at Downing Street," The Wall
Street Journal, December 31, 2007; Page A13 ---
Barack Obama is a good and inspiring man. What a
breath of fresh air! There's no doubting his sincerity or his commitment to
trying to straighten things out in this country. But who is he? I mean, other
than a guy who gives a great speech? How much do any of us really know about
him? I know he was against the war. How do I know that? He gave a speech before
the war started. But since he joined the senate, he has voted for the funds for
the war, while at the same time saying we should get out. He says he's for the
little guy, but then he votes for a corporate-backed bill to make it harder for
the little guy to file a class action suit when his kid swallows lead paint from
a Chinese-made toy. In fact, Obama doesn't think Wall Street is a bad place. He
wants the insurance companies to help us develop a new health care plan -- the
same companies who have created the mess in the first place. He's such a
feel-good kinda guy, I get the sense that, if elected, the Republicans will eat
him for breakfast. He won't even have time to make a good speech about it.
Michael Moore, "Who Do We Vote For
This Time Around?" January 2, 2008 ---
Do you feel the same as me? That the Democratic
front-runners are a less-than-stellar group of candidates, and that none of them
are the "slam dunk" we wish they were? . . . I am not endorsing anyone at this
point. This is simply how I feel in the first week of the process to replace
George W. Bush. For months I've been wanting to ask the question, "Where are
you, Al Gore?" You can only polish that Oscar for so long. And the Nobel was
decided by Scandinavians! I don't blame you for not wanting to enter the viper
pit again after you already won. But getting us to change out our incandescent
light bulbs for some irritating fluorescent ones isn't going to save the world.
All it's going to do is make us more agitated and jumpy and feeling like once we
get home we haven't really left the office.
Michael Moore, "Who Do We Vote For
This Time Around?" January 2, 2008 ---
To be fair, the Republican front-runners are also a less-than-stellar group of
candidates to a point where their campaigns have become down right boring.
After all, he (presidential candidate)
John Edwards is one of those white guys who's been running things for far too
Michael Moore, "Who Do We Vote For
This Time Around?" January 2, 2008 ---
Mr. Edwards knows how to use words, and you'll
notice that his rhetoric is aimed entirely at "big corporations" -- especially
drug, insurance and oil firms -- on which he promises to impose new compensation
limits and governance rules. He's promising that no "corporate lobbyist or
anyone who has lobbied for a foreign government" will work in his White House.
He made his case on our pages yesterday. But given his egalitarian impulses, we
also wondered if the former Senator would include billionaire trial lawyers
among those who'd have their earnings capped, et cetera. We called the campaign
to ask, and a spokesman offered the following: "Entrenched interests are anyone
lobbying for their own corporate greed against the best interests of America's
middle class." We'll take that as a no.
"Very Special Interest," The Wall Street Journal,
January 3, 2008; Page A12 ---
Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair on his way out
of office identified a truism for our times: With the rise of the Web, judgment
has fallen because less time is available to think. So one was struck during
Sen. John McCain's visit to the Journal editorial page a few weeks ago, when he
remarked that campaigns aren't adjusted day to day now, but "hour to hour." It
may be that a Web-stoked media has demoted the office of the presidency itself
as an animating idea and elevated the mechanics, the sport, of elections. The
unpopularity of the Bush presidency aside, note how a presidential election, now
entering its second year, has become a national obsession, which like most
obsessions tends to induce disappointment. We are passing through a largely
ideological age, exacerbated by the Web on the left and right. The left doesn't
want to do politics with the other side but merely wants to eliminate it, and
then run the country. The religious right, by and large, mainly wants someone to
pay attention to them and acknowledge their legitimacy. None of this has much to
do with finding a candidate who will make more right than wrong calls during
four years in the Oval Office.
Daniel Henninger, "Dr. Freud, What Do
Voters Want?" The Wall Street Journal, December 27, 2007; Page A10 ---
More than half the 380 students at this unusual
school outside Atlanta are refugees from some 40 countries, many torn by war.
The other students come from low-income families in Decatur, and from middle-
and upper-middle-class families in the area who want to expose their children to
other cultures. Together they form an eclectic community of Buddhists,
Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims, well-off and poor, of established local
families and new arrivals who collectively speak about 50 languages . . . Soon
this once mostly white suburb on the western side of Stone Mountain, a
historical bastion of the Ku Klux Klan, had become one of the more culturally
and ethnically diverse areas in the country.
Warren St John, "A School in Georgia
as a Laboratory for Getting Along," The New York Times, December 25, 2007
"You've Got to Be Taught to Hate and Fear" ---
Across [New York City],
delis and bodegas are a familiar and vital part of the
streetscape, modest places where customers can pick up necessities, a container
of milk, a can of soup, a loaf of bread. Amid the goods found in the stores,
there is one thing that many owners and employees say they cannot do without:
their cats. And it goes beyond cuddly companionship. These cats are workers,
tireless and enthusiastic hunters of unwanted vermin, and they typically do a
far better job than exterminators and poisons.
Kate Hammer, The New York Times, December 22, 2007 ---
A group representing U.S. air travelers claimed
victory Friday after a New York judge ruled that airlines in the state must
provide essential services to passengers stranded for long periods of time. The
decision means that from Jan 1, any passengers stuck in planes on runways at New
York's airports for more than three hours must be given food, water, fresh air
and given access to working toilets. Airlines face fines of up to $1,000 per
passenger for not adhering to the new rules. Campaigners urged other states to
follow suit, in what they hope will eventually become a nationwide bill of
rights for air passengers.
Japan Today, January 26, 2007 ---
I think this includes weather-related delays. I can't imagine the large airlines
doing this for New York airports and refusing to do this at other airports in
the U.S. Remember that in airline travel the squeaky (read that knowledgeable)
wheels generally get oiled first. But judge's decision does not apply to people
stranded inside the terminals such that this really will not be much of a big
deal. Generally passengers stranded inside the terminal for non-weather related
delays can squeak loudly enough for meal vouchers from the airlines and, if
necessary, overnight hotel vouchers.
China is suffering its worst drought in a decade,
which has left millions of people short of drinking water and has shrunk
reservoirs and rivers, state media said on Friday. Hardest hit are large swathes
of the usually humid south, where water levels on several major rivers have
plunged to historic lows in recent months.
Reuters, December 21, 2007 ---
The free press has been demolished, elections are
canceled and rigged, and then we hear how popular Mr. Putin is. Opposition
marches are crushed, and we're told--over and over--how much better off we are
today than in the days of the Soviet Union. This week Time magazine named Mr.
Putin its 2007 "Person of the Year 2007." Unfortunately, there is no silver
lining to Russia's descent into dictatorship. If anything there is a look of
iron to it . . . Consider the timing of this announcement, right after the
counterfeit parliamentary elections that added to Mr. Putin's record of
eradicating democracy across Russia. The Time article will be trumpeted by
Kremlin propaganda as an endorsement of Mr. Putin's policies. The man on the
street will be told that even America, constantly blasted by the Kremlin as an
enemy, has been forced to recognize the president's greatness. Internationally,
the focus will be on the myth that Mr. Putin has built a "strong Russia." In
fact he and his cronies have hollowed out the state from within. Most of the
power now resides in the super-corporations like Gazprom and Rosneft, and among
the small group of loyalists who run them. The Putin regime has taken Russia
from a frail democracy to an efficient mafia state. It was an impressive
balancing act--behaving like a tyrant while at the same time staying in the good
graces of the West. After each crackdown, with no significant international
reaction forthcoming, Mr. Putin knew it was safe to take another step. As ever,
appeasement in the name of realpolitik only encourages would-be dictators. And
such moral weakness inevitably leads to very real costs in human life.
Gary Kasparov, "Man of the Year?
Vladimir Putin will now use Time magazine's honor to enhance his," The Wall
Street Journal, December 23, 2007 ---
And if Putin has his way in the rewriting of history, a drunken Joseph Stalin's
exterminations of millions of Stalin's political opponents will be erased with
white out while new monuments to Stalin will be erected throughout the Mother
Country. Visitors may even be required to bow in respect. I hope editors of
Time Magazine are invited to be the first to bow on their knees and kiss the
newly white washed pavement that erased the stains and stench of Russian blood.
Would monuments to Al Capone be erected if Time Magazine had instead
honored the U.S. Mafia instead of the Russian Mafia?
If you think Hollywood's idea of a Christmas movie
being one about the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan is strange, even stranger is
the plot line. "Charlie Wilson's War," which opened Friday, manages to reduce
the president who won the Cold War to a background footnote. Charlie Wilson was
. . . widely known as "the liberal from Lufkin." To his credit, he did play a
role in facilitating support to the Afghan mujahadeen. But it is he who should
be the historical footnote. In his book, "Ronald Reagan: The Role of a
Lifetime," Lou Cannon notes how Reagan "expressed revulsion of the brutal
destruction of Afghan villages and such Soviet policies as the scattering of
mines disguised as toys that killed and maimed Afghan children." He did not need
much convincing to aid the Afghan resistance. . . . Wilson's chief ally in the
film is CIA agent Gust Avrakotos who, like Wilson, is portrayed as a
enthusiastic supporter of providing the Stingers. But Ikle says, the CIA
bureaucracy initially fought against the idea and that Wilson was lukewarm on
the matter. Ikle says both came around only after the rebels actually started
bringing down the Soviet helicopter gunships. The movie also perpetuates the
left-wing myth that the covert operation funded Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida and
ultimately led to the 9/11 attacks. Reagan-era officials such as Ikle say Osama
never got funding or weapons from the U.S. and that he didn't launch his terror
war until after U.S. involvement and the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. It was
Ronald Reagan, not Charlie Wilson, who gave the order to provide the mujahadeen
with the Stinger missiles that denied the Soviet air supremacy and turned the
tide of battle after 1986. Yet in the movie, the likes of Dan Rather and Diane
Sawyer (director Mike Nichol's wife) are more prominently mentioned. To be fair,
the movie doesn't mention Jimmy Carter either. It was his naivete about
Communist expansion that led the Soviets to invade Afghanistan in the first
place. Had Reagan not beaten Carter in 1980 there would have been no Stingers
and no victory in the Cold War. But don't expect a (Hollywood) movie about
Reagan's victory over communism or Carter's surrender to it.
Investors Daily, December 24, 2007
To his credit Charlie Wilson himself also admits in public that the movie
overplays his part in defeating the Russians in Afghanistan. But Tom Hanks makes
it a good, albeit phony, yarn.
Between 2000 and 2006 the U.S. Government issued
$1.3 trillion of brand new debt. During that same time period U.S. based
investors (pension funds, insurance companies, mutual funds, etc.) lightened
their net holdings of U.S. Treasury securities by $300 billion. What these
statistics point out is that not only have foreign investors purchased EVERY
single dollar of debt that the United States has issued during those six years,
but they also bought $300 billion of outstanding debt too. Americans do not
appreciate in a robust fashion how dependent the U.S. has gotten on foreign
investors lending us money. And it's not just U.S. Treasury debt, but also a
host of corporate, mortgage & asset backed products as well as all kinds of
structured securities. Without that demand for our debt, prices will fall and
long-term interest rates will rise. So the breaking of these subprime
obligations will not be free. These foreign investors will demand a higher "risk
premium" to invest in U.S. instruments, which will make it more expensive for
future borrowers to get loans. And you can be guaranteed that many of them will
sue to get the payments they thought they were owed, which will drive up
mortgage banks' expenses even further. Moreover, the courts and bureaucrats will
be tied up for years in a struggle to define exactly who deserves loan
forgiveness. People who are making payments on time will naturally demand to get
something out of the deal since why should they essentially suffer for being
responsible? As the cost of the bailout goes up, there is little doubt that
state and federal governments will float bonds to pay the refinancing fees and,
of course, the interest payments on those obligations will be paid by all
December 10, 2007
Mike Huckabee, one of the most conservative
Republicans in the 2008 presidential race, has embraced one of the most radical
ideas on the campaign trail: a plan to abolish all federal income and payroll
taxes and replace them with a single 23% national sales tax. The idea -- dubbed
the "fair tax" by proponents -- has been a political asset for Huckabee; its
well-organized backers have helped catapult him from the back of the
presidential pack to its top tier . . . Still, the proposal inspires grass-roots
passion, in large part because it would replace or abolish the Internal Revenue
Service, one of the most hated federal agencies and a symbol of intrusive
government in some conservative circles . . . Huckabee and Fairtax.org call for
a 23% tax on virtually all purchases in place of federal income taxes, as well
as payroll taxes to fund Social Security and Medicare. To ease the effect on the
poor, they propose a "prebate" -- a monthly cash payment to every family -- to
cover sales taxes on spending up to the federal poverty level.
Janet Hook, Los Angeles Times, December 24,
Unless the "fair tax" is accompanied by differential (low) debt interest rate
currently enjoyed by schools, towns, counties, and states due to "tax-exempt
bond" investment alternatives for income tax purposes, the "fair tax" will be a
disaster from the standpoint of massive added interest costs for such
things as K-12 schools, colleges, roads, etc. At the moment, poor people in the
U.S. pay no income tax. The poor folks are bound to favor Huckabee's version of
the "fair tax" since they will then receive prebates well in excess of
what they pay out. But it will hurt families if the prebates are spent on more
booze and gambling rather than the higher prices for food and heat due to the
fair tax imposed on goods purchased. There also is the enormous problem
regarding a fair tax on services such as doctors' office visits and legal
"In the United States, every year since 1970, when
only 196,429 persons were in state and federal prisons, the prison population
has grown. Today there are over 1.5 million in state and federal prisons.
Another 750,000 are in the nation’s jails,” said the report. “The growth has
been constant—in years of rising crime and falling crime, in good economic times
and bad, during wartime and while we were at peace. A generation of growth has
produced prison populations that are now eight times what they were in 1970,” it
continued. While prisons are overcrowded, crime rates are steady in many cities,
but rising in others. Authors of the report, proposed shorter prison terms, and
changes to laws that govern probation and parole violations to reduce numbers
Nisa Islam Muhammad, "America's
Prisons Hold More Than 1.5 Million," New Media, December 18, 2007 ---
Canada has challenged the Iranian government over
concerns that weapons and bomb-making equipment are slipping across the border
to Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said
Tuesday. "We're very concerned that weapons are coming in from Iran," MacKay
told reporters, while visiting Canadian troops with Gen. Rick Hillier in
Kandahar province. "We're very concerned that these weapons are going to the
insurgents and are keeping this issue alive. We've certainly made our views to
the Iranian government about this known."
Allison Lampert, "Canada accuses
Iran of being weapons pipeline," National Post, December 25, 2007 ---
Iranian scientists said Monday that the country's
first cloned sheep is thriving 15 months after birth, eating well and frolicking
among a flock of normal sheep.
Ali Akabar Dareini, PhysOrg,
December 31, 2007 ---
Although some Christian fundamentalist groups oppose cloning, Islamic
fundamentalists apparently have no objections.
Beyond the elections, Mr. Musharraf needs to move
aggressively to confront the jihadists, and not the lawyers and civil-rights
activists he has been jailing in recent months. Hundreds of Pakistanis have been
murdered in recent months in terrorist acts perpetrated by fellow Muslims, and
many of these perpetrators have, in different ways and at different times, been
connected to the Pakistani government itself: as beneficiaries of the terrorist
war Pakistan has supported over the years in Kashmir, or as beneficiaries of the
support Pakistan gave to the Taliban until 9/11, or as beneficiaries of the
ill-conceived "truce" Mr. Musharraf signed last year with Taliban- and al
Qaeda-connected tribal chiefs in the Waziristan province. Worst of all has been
the look-the-other-way approach successive Pakistani governments have taken to
the radical, Saudi-funded madrassas throughout the country.
"Target: Pakistan Losing in the West, the jihadis hit Pakistan, with its nuclear
prize," The Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2007 ---
As Benazir Bhutto herself observed in The Wall Street Journal
http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110011046 --in an op-ed
published the week after the earlier attempt on her life:
The attack on me was not totally unexpected. I had
received credible information that I was being targeted by elements that
wanted to disrupt the democratic process--specifically that Baitul Masood
(an Afghan who leads the Taliban forces in North Waziristan), Hamza bin
Laden (an Arab), and a Red Mosque militant had been sent to kill me. I also
feared that they were being used by their sympathizers, who have infiltrated
the security and administration of my country, and who now fear that the
return of democracy will thwart their plans.
Catholic Church bishops, priests and other Church
leaders in Latin America were once a reliably of the left, owing to the
influence of "liberation theology," which tries to link the Gospel to the
socialist cause. Today the Church is coming to recognize the link between
socialism and the loss of freedom, and a shift in thinking is taking place. In a
region that is more than 90% Catholic, this change might have enormous
implications. A Church that emphasizes liberty could play a role in Latin
America similar to that which it played in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, as a
counterweight in defense of freedom during a time of rising despotism. For proof
of the change I refer to, consider a recent statement from the Catholic Bishops
of Venezuela: It blasted the political agenda of President Hugo Chávez for its
assault on liberty under the guise of helping the poor. It is morally
unacceptable, the statement said, and will drive the country backward in terms
of respect for human rights.
Robert A. Sirico, "Liberty
Theology," The Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2007; Page A12 ---
In the contest to be America's most spendthrift
state, New York and California are typically ahead of the pack. But here comes
the not-so-Golden State charging back in the lead. Last week Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger announced he will declare a "fiscal emergency" in January, which
he said has become "a common thing in California." No kidding. This budget
crisis comes a mere five years after the last one. The bean counters in
Sacramento are now projecting the state's budget deficit at $14 billion, and
climbing. That's a big enough hole that if the state were to slash 10% from
every public service -- from schools, to courts, to highway patrol units -- it
would still be $2 billion in the red. There are lessons for other states in
these recurring budget miseries, in case anyone still thinks California is a
model to follow. Let's start with the culture of overspending in Sacramento.
State outlays have nearly tripled to $142 billion this year from $51 billion in
the early 1990s. After the technology bubble burst in 2001, the state's deficit
swelled to $20 billion. Voters recalled Gray Davis from the Governor's mansion
in favor of Mr. Schwarzenegger, who promised to "cut up the state's credit
card." In Arnold's first year, the budget was held in check, but the state still
issued $9 billion in "revenue bonds" rather than shrink the size of government.
"The Red Ink State," The Wall Street Journal, December 28,
2007; Page A12 ---
The Terminator terminates whatever was left of the credit standing of the State
of California. How much of your savings will the presidential candidates promise
To hear the candidates talk, a repeat of 1930s-scale
government job creation is dangerously overdue. John Edwards has proposed that
government take the lead in creating types of jobs--"green collar" and "stepping
stone"--to serve the two goals of protecting the environment and giving lower
earners new skills. Dennis Kucinich is calling for a new green version of FDR's
Works Progress Administration . . . A related problem was that the New Deal's
emergency jobs were short term, lasting months, not years, so people could not
settle into them. This led to further disruption. In the very best years of
Roosevelt's first two terms, unemployment still stood above 9%. Nine percent is
better than horrendous, but it hardly is a figure that induces hope . . . The
relevant points for today are simple. The famous "multiplier effect" of public
spending may exist. U.S. cities do indeed need new highways, new buildings and
new roads, maybe even from government. But these needs should be weighed against
damage that comes when officials create projects and jobs for political reasons.
An emergency such as a Great Depression, a Sept. 11, a Katrina, can serve as a
catalyst for an infrastructure project and for job creation too. But the dire
moral quality of that emergency does not guarantee that the project undertaken
in its name will be more efficient than your standard earmark. In other words,
candidates may want to be careful as they climb onto FDR's shoulders. The New
Deal edifice may look solid, but it doesn't form a good basis for the American
Amity Shlaes, "The New Deal Jobs
Myth: The candidates keep touting Depression-style public works programs.
Why?" The Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2007 ---
Most of the success of the WPA in the New Deal era of the Great Depression lies
in the valued trade skills of the unemployed that were put to work by the WPA.
Most were carpenters, brick layers, plumbers, electricians, farmers, and other
workers who brought value added to WPA projects. Workers with these same skills
today are not unemployed if they are good workers. In fact employers are
desperate to hire good workers with such skills. Today's hard core unemployed
are unskilled and/or drug addicted and unmotivated workers who bring little
value added to the private sector or to government-financed make-work projects
promoted by Edwards and Kucinich. There really is such a thing as the dreaded
Industrial Reserve Army of Labour bemoaned by Karl Marx in his dreams for a
better working world ---
In the days of Karl Marx alcoholism was the main drag on many poor workers.
Today this is expanded to almost every addictive drug imaginable. And there's
more money is selling drugs on the streets than in working for "green dollar"
and "stepping stone" jobs dreamed up by naive populast presidential candidates
grasping at straws for campaign slogans.
"The State of Jihad: 2007," by Bill Roggio, The Long War Journal,
January 8, 2008 ---
The US and her allies in Europe, the
Middle East, and beyond have witnessed both stunning successes and dramatic
setbacks in the Long War during 2007. Pakistan has continued its slide
towards a failed state, with the government having relinquished control over
additional territory to the Taliban and, thus, al Qaeda. Suicide bombings
and attacks on all segments of the state plagued Pakistan as the Taliban and
al Qaeda cemented their new safe havens. Iraq, which seemed all but lost at
the end of 2006 as the US appeared to lose the all-important political will,
has turned around with the change in counterinsurgency plan and the surge of
troops US and Iraqi troops. Al Qaeda and the Iranian-backed Shia terrorists
are losing ground and local support in Iraq. Afghanistan has seen its worst
year of violence since the Taliban was defeated in late 2001; suicide
bombings and IED attacks skyrocketed due to the problems in Pakistan.
The war also continues in dozens of lesser
theaters. India suffered numerous blows from Pakistani-based terrorists. Al
Qaeda has revitalized itself in Algeria and greater northern Africa. A
brutal insurgency is being waged in Somalia after the Islamic Courts was
ousted at the end of 2006. The Philippines saw some progress against Abu
Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah in the southern provinces. Thailand's Islamist
insurgency ballooned in 2007. Al Qaeda is attempting to revive the jihad in
Chechnya and the greater Caucasus. Saudi Arabia and Yemen continue to breed
the next generation of al Qaeda fighters.
This link provides a roundup of the major developments in
the most active theaters across the globe in the Long War.
Nowadays, this region of what is today northwest
Pakistan is variously called "Al Qaedastan," "Talibanistan" or, more properly,
the "Islamic Emirate of Waziristan." Pakistan gave up South Waziristan to the
Taliban in spring 2006, after taking heavy casualties in a failed four-year
campaign to consolidate control of this fierce tribal region. By the fall,
Pakistan had effectively abandoned North Waziristan. The nominal truce--actually
closer to a surrender--was signed in a soccer stadium, beneath al Qaeda's black
flag . . . Muslim society will have to reform far more profoundly than Akbar
Ahmed concedes if the worst is to be avoided. Our best option may be to
reintroduce somehow the Aligarh University tradition of liberal learning and
merit-based employment (independent of kinship ties) to the Muslim world. With
our strategy in Iraq now reinforcing tribalism, the obvious front to try this is
Europe, where concerted efforts must be made to assimilate Muslims to Western
values. Globalization may then work for us, as cultural changes bounce back to
the Middle East. Even in the best case, we face a long-term struggle. Simmering
tensions between modernity and Muslim social life are coming to a head. Yet all
our present recent schemes are patchwork. And someday, perhaps at the peak of a
post-emergency civil war between the army and the Islamists in Pakistan, the
military steamroller may be called upon to settle the Waziristan problem once
and for all. Who knows if, even then, it will work.
"Tribes of Terror: A guide to the wilds of northwest Pakistan," by
Stanley Kurtz, The Wall Street Journal, January 3, 2008 ---
From Opinion Journal on December 31, 2007
Best of the Web Today - December 31, 2007 By JAMES
Liberals Against Diversity
The New York Times op-ed page is trying to go from
bad to diverse. The page has hired William Kristol, editor of The Weekly
Standard, as a weekly columnist, starting next Monday. The Politico
reports that word of the hiring "caused a frenzy in
the liberal blogosphere Friday night, with threats of canceling
subscriptions and claims that the Gray Lady had been hijacked by neo-cons":
*** QUOTE ***
But Times editorial page editor Andy Rosenthal sees
Rosenthal told Politico shortly after the official
announcement Saturday that he fails to understand "this weird fear of
"The idea that The New York Times is giving voice
to a guy who is a serious, respected conservative intellectual--and somehow
that's a bad thing," Rosenthal added. "How intolerant is that?"
*** END QUOTE ***
It is tempting to make fun of Rosenthal for
discovering liberal intolerance at this late date, but we're bigger than
that. Instead, we'd like to chew over one particular liberal plaint about
Kristol's hiring, from Katha Pollitt
of The Nation:
*** QUOTE ***
What ever happened to meritocracy? For Kristol to
get a Times column--after being fired from Time magazine no less--is as
meritocratic as, um, George W. Bush becoming the leader of the free world. A
pundit, even a highly ideological one like Kristol, has to be (or seem)
right at least some of the time. But what's striking about Kristol is that
he's has been wrong about everything! . . . And it's not as if he's a great
prose stylist, either. At least David Brooks can occasionally turn a phrase.
Kristol just churns out whatever the argument of the moment happens to be,
adds jeers, and knocks off for lunch.
What this hire demonstrates is how successfully the
right has intimidated the mainstream media. Their constant demonizing of the
New York Times as the tool of the liberal elite worked. (Maybe it also
demonstrates that the people in charge of the decision aren't so liberal.)
I'm sure we'll hear a lot about the need for balance at the paper--funny how
the Wall Street Journal doesn't feel the need to have even one resident
liberal, but fine, let's have balance. Let's have a true leftist on the oped
page--someone as far to the left as Kristol is to the right. Noam Chomsky,
anyone? (and why does he seem just totally out of bounds but Kristol does
not?) Barbara Ehrenreich? Naomi Klein? Susan Faludi? Gary Younge? me?
*** END QUOTE ***
So Pollitt's gripe is (in part) that she didn't get
the gig! We'll give her points for candor, but doesn't she sound for all the
world like one of those dead white males complaining about being passed over
in favor of an affirmative-action hire?
Don't get us wrong. We don't mean to suggest that
conservatives qua conservatives have civil rights. If the Times had a policy
of refusing to hire conservative columnists, we might criticize or mock the
paper for it, but we would never argue that the law should compel it to
treat right-leaning job applicants equally.
Yet Pollitt's complaint runs directly counter to
the standard liberal argument for affirmative action. In his influential
split-the-difference opinion in University of California v. Bakke
(1978), Justice Lewis Powell opined that racial preferences in college
admissions could be justified in the interest of "the attainment of a
diverse student body." In Grutter v. Bollinger
(2003), a 5-4 Supreme Court majority endorsed Powell's
view. Writing for the majority in Grutter, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor noted
that corporate America had embraced the diversity rationale:
*** QUOTE ***
The [University of Michigan] Law School's claim of
a compelling interest is further bolstered by its amici ["friends of the
court" who filed briefs in support of the university's position], who point
to the educational benefits that flow from student body diversity. In
addition to the expert studies and reports entered into evidence at trial,
numerous studies show that student body diversity promotes learning
outcomes, and "better prepares students for an increasingly diverse
workforce and society, and better prepares them as professionals." . . .
These benefits are not theoretical but real, as
major American businesses have made clear that the skills needed in today's
increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to
widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints.
*** END QUOTE ***
If we define "affirmative action" broadly as the
pursuit of diversity, almost everyone can support it, even those who reject
racial preferences as a means to that end. In this sense, then, the Times's
hiring of Kristol is an instance of affirmative action that no one should
find invidious. He was hired without regard to race or other suspect
classifications, evidently because his viewpoint is underrepresented on the
Times op-ed page
Yet Pollitt objects to Kristol's hiring precisely
because it promotes diversity. She would rather his slot had gone to her or
someone else who would have been the Times's eighth or ninth liberal rather
than its second conservative. Look at this column
or this online debate
, and you'll see that she approves of racial preferences. When it comes to
affirmative action, then, she favors questionable means so long as they do
not further the worthy end.
You will never catch NBC hiring a conservative or even allowing a
conservative point of view to be aired. Alternative points of view are worse
than Al Qaeda.
40 Most Obnoxious Quotations in 2007 ---
16) "Al Qaeda really hurt us,
but not as much as Rupert Murdoch has hurt us, particularly in the case
of Fox News. Fox News is worse than Al Qaeda — worse for our society.
It’s as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan ever was." --
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann hoping that Congress will declare war on Fox
Not Even One Conservative for
Tokenism: Duke is for Democrats and so is the University of Iowa
Particular departments in universities often have the same problem with such a
extreme lack of diversity in politics and scholarship that reflects a
great fear of exposing students to conservative points of view.
of Iowa's history department and Duke's history department have a couple of
things in common. Both have made national news because neither has a Republican
faculty member. And both rejected the application of Mark Moyar, a highly
qualified historian and a Republican, for a faculty appointment. Moyar graduated
first in the history department at Harvard; his revised senior thesis was
published as a book and sold more copies than an average history professor ever
sells. After earning a Ph.D. from Cambridge University in England, he published
his dissertation as "Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965" with
Cambridge University Press, which has received even more attention and praise.
Moyar's views of Vietnam are controversial and have garnered scorn and abuse
from liberal historians, including the department chair at the University of
Iowa, Colin Gordon. Moyar revealed on his resume that he is a member of the
National Association of Scholars, a group generally to the right of the normal
academic organization. Gordon and his colleagues at Iowa were undoubtedly aware
of Moyar's conservative leaning and historical view. Moyar is undoubtedly
qualified. He is unquestionably diverse; his views are antithetical to many of
the Iowa professors' views. Yet the Iowa department hired someone who had
neither received degrees from institutions similar to Cambridge and Harvard nor
published a book despite having completed graduate school eight years earlier
(history scholars are expected to publish books within approximately six years
of finishing their doctorates). In the Iowa history department there are 27
Democrats and zero Republicans. The Iowa hiring guidelines mandate that search
committees "assess ways the applicants will bring rich experiences, diverse
backgrounds and ideology to the university community." After seeking a freedom
of information disclosure, Moyar learned that the Iowa history department had,
in fact, not complied with the hiring manual. It seemed that Moyar was rejected
for his political and historical stands. Maybe it was an unlikely aberration.
But Moyar told the Duke College Republicans earlier this fall that he is
skeptical because an application of his a few years ago at Duke for a history
professorship progressed in much the same way it proceeded in Iowa.
The Duke Chronicle, November 1,
"The Liberal Skew in Higher Education," by Richard Posner, The
Becker-Posner Blog, December 30, 2007 ---
It is no secret that professors at
American colleges and universities are much more liberal on average than the
American people as a whole. A recent paper by two sociology professors
contains a useful history of scholarship on the issue and, more important,
reports the results of the most careful survey yet conducted of the ideology
of American academics. See Neal Gross and Solon Simmons, “The Social and
Political Views of American Professors,” Sept. 24, 2007, available at
http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~ngross/lounsbery_9-25.pdf (visited Dec. 29.
2007); and for a useful summary, with comments, including some by Larry
Summers, see “The Liberal (and Moderating) Professoriate,” Inside Higher Ed,
Oct. 8, 2007, available at www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/10/08/politics
(visited Dec. 29. 2007).) More than 1,400 full-time professors at a wide
variety of institutions of higher education, including community colleges,
responded to the survey, representing a 51 percent response rate; and
analysis of non-responders indicates that the responders were not a biased
sample of the professors surveyed.
In the sample as a whole, 44 percent of
professors are liberal, 46 percent moderate or centrist, and only 9 percent
conservative. (These are self-descriptions.) The corresponding figures for
the American population as a whole, according to public opinion polls, are
18 percent, 49 percent, and 33 percent, suggesting that professors are on
average more than twice as liberal, and only half as conservative, as the
average American. There are interesting differences within the professoriat,
however. The most liberal disciplines are the humanities and the social
sciences; only 6 percent of the social-science professors and 15 percent of
the humanities professors in the survey voted for Bush in 2004. In contrast,
business, medicine and other health sciences, and engineering are much less
liberal, and the natural sciences somewhat less so, but they are still more
liberal than the nation as a whole; only 32 percent of the business
professors voted for Bush--though 52 percent of the health-sciences
professors did. In the entire sample, 78 percent voted for Kerry and only 20
percent for Bush.
. . .
My last point is what might be called the
institutionalization of liberal skew by virtue of affirmative action in
college admissions. Affirmative action brings in its train political
correctness, sensitivity training, multiculturalism, and other attitudes or
practices that make a college an uncongenial environment for many
"The Liberal Skew in Higher Education," by Nobel Laureate Gary Becker, The
Becker-Posner Blog, December 30, 2007 ---
The study by Gross and Simmons
discussed by Posner in part confirms what has been found in earlier studies
about the greater liberalism of American professors than of the American
population as a whole. Their study goes further than previous ones by having
an apparently representative sample of professors in all types of colleges
and universities, and by giving nuanced and detailed information about
attitudes and voting of professors by field of expertise, age, gender, type
of college or university, and other useful characteristics. I will try to
add to Posner's valuable discussion by concentrating on the effects on
academic political attitudes of events in the world, and of their fields of
specialization. I also consider whether college teachers have long-lasting
influences on the views of their students.
. . .
Given the indisputable evidence that
professors are liberal, how much influence does that have on the long run
attitudes of college students? This is especially relevant since some of the
most liberal academic disciplines, like the social sciences and English,
have close contact with younger undergraduates. The evidence strongly
indicates that whatever the short-term effects of college teachers on the
opinions of their students, the long run influence appears to be modest. For
example, college graduates, like the rest of the voting population, split
their voting evenly between Bush and Kerry. The influence of high incomes
(college graduates earn on average much more than others), the more
conservative family backgrounds of the typical college student (but less
conservative for students at elite colleges), and other life experiences far
dominate the mainly forgotten influence of their college teachers.
This evidence does not mean that the
liberal bias of professors is of no concern, but rather that professors are
much less important in influencing opinions than they like to believe, or
then is apparently believed by the many critics on the right of the
liberality of professors.
One of the least diverse (politically) academic associations is the highly liberal Modern
Language Association. However, even the MLA could not muster up a vote critical
of the firing of Ward Churchill by the University of Colorado.
While material distributed by those seeking to condemn
Churchill’s firing portrayed him favorably, and as a victim of the right wing,
some of those who criticized the pro-Churchill effort at the meeting are
long-time experts in Native American studies and decidedly not conservative.
Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed,
December 31, 2007 ---
Bob Jensen's threads on Ward Churchill are at
Hypocrisy in Academia and the Media ---
40 Most Obnoxious Quotations in 2007 ---
Fraud Alert on Purchasing/Selling Carbon Offsets
"Carbon Offsets: Government Warns of Fraud Risk," by Christopher Joyce,
NPR, January 3, 2008 ---
There is something new to feel guilty about:
This new form of remorse is found among people who
think that their lifestyle — driving, plane trips or maybe just leaf-blowing
— adds too much climate-warming carbon dioxide to the air.
The guilty can now buy something called a "carbon
offset." Essentially, you pay someone else to reduce or "offset" carbon
emissions equal to your own.
It's a booming new trade, but the federal
government is worried that consumers are getting ripped off. The Federal
Trade Commission has announced it will investigate the offset business.
For the consumer, buying an offset is pretty
straightforward. You go to a broker and pay a few bucks for every ton of CO2
you want to offset. The average amount each American adds to the air is
about 20 tons annually.
The broker promises that your money will pay for a
project somewhere that will reduce carbon emissions, say, by growing trees
that soak up that CO2 or building a solar energy plant.
Pankaj Bhatia of the World Resources Institute, an
environmental think tank, says the business is hot. In fact, trade in this
offset market is figured to be about $100 million a year and growing fast.
Bhatia's job is to assess carbon footprints — how
much carbon you or your business emits. He says he's been very busy.
"Today, I got a phone call from a group that is
managing concerts," he says, "and they wanted to know how they could
quantify emissions from the transportation by helicopters of their
equipment." The concert promoters wanted to buy offsets to neutralize the
CO2 their concert produced.
How Much and For What?
But how do people know they are getting what they
are paying for? After all, this is a market that trades in a gas, or more
accurately, units of a gas that are not produced.
In the United States, the trading is voluntary and
nobody is in charge. That worries people whose job it is to protect
"Our concern is that because these claims are very
hard to substantiate and consumers can't easily tell they're getting what
they pay for, there is the real possibility of fraud in this market," says
Jim Kohm of the FTC's enforcement division.
Kohm says he does not know yet if there is much
fraudulent carbon trading. But he is suspicious. "There's been an explosion
in green marketing," he says. "There are claims that we didn't see in the
market 10 years ago. Carbon offsets are one of those new claims."
There is a raft of new "carbon-neutral" products.
For instance, there are potato chips and rock concerts that are advertised
as "clean" because their makers or sponsors have bought offsets to
counterbalance their emissions.
What the FTC Is Looking For
One of the things the FTC will investigate is
"double selling," Kohm says. "So, for example, if I have solar panels on top
of my store and then I sell somebody else the right to claim that carbon
scrubbing, I can't then claim the carbon scrubbing for myself, as well."
"And if somebody were selling that two or three
times, then that would be a deceptive practice that the FTC would need to
take action on."
Another hangup is whether the carbon savings you
are buying would have happened anyway. For example, what if a company cuts
back on the electricity it uses simply to save money? Can that company then
claim it has created an offset and then sell it? Climate experts say no. The
offset market, they say, is meant to pay for carbon reductions that would
not have happened otherwise.
Some environmental groups say that instead of
buying carbon offsets, Americans should do the hard work themselves: use
less electricity, switch from coal to wind power, drive less.
Continued in article
Bob Jensen's Fraud Updates are at
"Novel mechanism for long-term learning identified by Carnegie Mellon
researchers," PhysOrg, January 3, 2008 ---
Practice makes perfect — or at least that’s what
we’re told as we struggle through endless rounds of multiplication tables,
goal kicks and piano scales — and it seems, based on the personal experience
of many, to be true. That’s why neuroscientists have been perplexed by data
showing that at the level of individual synapses, or connections between
neurons, increased, repetitive stimulation might actually reverse early
gains in synaptic strength. Now, neuroscientists from Carnegie Mellon
University and the Max Planck Institute have discovered the mechanism that
resolves this apparent paradox. The findings are published in the Jan. 4
issue of Science.
The mechanism further explains how brain synapses
strengthen in response to new experiences. Previous research by Carnegie
Mellon researcher and lead author of the study Alison Barth has shown that
there is a connection between synaptic plasticity, or changes, and learning
and memory. However, little was known about the mechanisms that underlie
learning that occurs over longer timeframes, with continuing training or
Scientists have shown that N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)
receptors are required to initiate synaptic plasticity in this mechanism, a
fact that holds true in many areas of the brain. Indeed, it is becoming
increasingly clear that these receptors are required for the kind of
synaptic strengthening that occurs during learning.
Barth and colleagues discovered that the NMDA
receptors undergo a sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde transition after an initial
phase of learning. Instead of helping synapses get stronger, they actually
begin to weaken the synapses and impair further learning. According to
Barth, scientists knew that logically, after an initial learning or training
experience, this change in receptor function and resulting synapse
deterioration would mean that learning would stop, and perhaps with
continued stimulation neural processes might even degrade – but experience
showed that that wasn’t the case.
“We know intuitively that the more we practice
something, the better we get, so there had to be something that happened
after the NMDA receptors switched function which helped synapses to continue
to strengthen,” said Barth, an assistant professor of biological sciences at
the university’s Mellon College of Science.
Barth chose to look at the cortex, an area of the
brain responsible for a slower form of learning that can improve with
additional training, or experience. She notes that this brain area may use
very different molecular mechanisms than other forms of short-term, episodic
memory like those that may occur in the hippocampus.
In a series of experiments the researchers blocked
different receptors, including NMDA, to see the receptors’ effect on
long-term neural stimulation. They found that while the NMDA receptor is
required to begin neural strengthening, a second neurotransmitter receptor —
the metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptor — comes into play after this
first phase of cellular learning. Using an NMDA antagonist to block NMDA
receptors after the initiation of plasticity resulted in enhanced synaptic
strengthening, while blocking mGlu receptors caused strengthening to stop.
The Carnegie Mellon researchers tracked the changes
in the neurons by using a transgenic mouse model that Barth created. In the
model, a mild sensory imbalance is created by allowing the mouse to sense
its surrounding through only one whisker. Whiskers are useful in studying
sensory plasticity because, like human fingers, each whisker is linked to
its own unique area of the brain’s cortex, making it easy to monitor
activity and changes. Limiting the mouse’s ability to sense its surroundings
through only one whisker causes a sensory imbalance leading to increased
plasticity in the cortex.
“The neural mechanisms of learning and memory have
been poorly understood,” said Barth. “Establishing the relationship between
NMDA and mGlu receptors will allow us to better understand how we learn and
perhaps may help us better understand diseases where learning and memory is
lost, as in Alzheimer’s disease.”
Bob Jensen's threads on technology, learning, and memory are at
Look for a Year of E-Textbooks in 2008
Over the past year, a consortium of major textbook
publishers and several competing ventures have been getting ready for a new push
in what is becoming a small but steadily growing fraction of the overall market
for college students. “Those efforts are starting to crack the surface of
digital content being a serious growing enterprise in higher education,” said
Evan Schnittman, vice president of business development and rights for Oxford
University Press’s academic and U.S. divisions. McGraw-Hill Education, for
example, offers almost 95 percent of its textbooks as e-books, and the publisher
has seen a steady growth in interest over the past several years, albeit from a
small base. Their logic seems unassailable: With laptops now an ubiquitous
presence on college campuses and textbook prices ever on the rise and suddenly a
hot issue, technologically inclined students seem poised to change their study
habits — and save a lot of money — by forgoing scribbles in the margin and
trading in their highlighters for cursors.
"E-Textbooks — for Real This Time?" Inside Higher Ed, January 3, 2008 ---
Bob Jensen's threads on electronic books are at
Bob Jensen's links to free online textbooks and other electronic
January 3, 2008 reply from Don Ramsey
Students may have access to computers, but not all
have laptops. I used an e-book for a year, hoping to pioneer the cost
savings (free, at freeloadpress.com), but found that students would not
bring their books (laptops) to class. They could not follow the problems
being demonstrated, nor others picked spontaneously, not to mention various
illustrations. In a class of perhaps 25, I would see 3 or 4 laptops in use.
At first I tried printing handouts for the classroom problems, but that got
to be a real chore very quickly.
A related problem was that they could not study or
do homework anywhere but where their computer is located; e.g., between
classes, at lunch, etc.
Some would print the chapters. This got to be a lot
of work and fairly expensive. (A real hoot: The free textbook is supported
financially by internal advertising. Some students would go to Kinko's to
print. Kinko's software absolutely would not print the text legibly. Letters
would be run together, etc., etc. I checked with a Kinko's technician who
had several years experience with .pdf files, and he could not make it work.
So, guess who is one of the major advertisers within the book?
Bingo--Kinko's, naturally! And I doubt they have fixed the problem.)
There were other problems less significant
individually, but more so in the aggregate. Students would fail to make the
download promptly. We reproduced Part I on disks, but some still
procrastinated or had last-minute (i.e., pre-exam) installation problems.
Downloads are long for those with dial-up access. University labs can
suffice for those not having their own computers, but there are limitations
of location away from home (all our students are commuters) plus
administrative approval for installation.
A major issue arose in that other sections did not
use the same textbook; so I have decided to rejoin my colleagues with their
conventional textbook. This is particularly important in standardizing
chapter coverage for assessment purposes.
So, I am back to the good old portable textbook.
The half-year version, which at least weighs less than the complete boat
I still have a major issue with every textbook I
have seen, in that the question banks (which I believe tend to validate
performance on a national level) are woefully inadequate. There ought to be
a plenitude of objective questions on every subtopic, so that the question
bank can be used for quizzes and examinations without duplication. Some
publishers' question banks are barely adequate; some are downright spotty as
to topical coverage. To expect sufficient questions for two semesters
without duplication is apparently utterly unrealistic. I have a strong
suspicion that neither the "editors" (marketers) nor the authors pay
attention to the content supplied by the contractors who write the question
The software houses that provide generic exam
software would do well to add a feature that allows the instructor to keep
track of which questions have already been used, so as to avoid using the
same question on an exam that had already been used in a quiz. (Actually I
used to give two quizzes per chapter, pre- and post-.)
Of course, when we reach saturation, or nearly so,
of laptop ownership, the whole picture would change. Publishers who
anticipate that situation are to be congratulated. The price of conventional
textbooks is outrageous. (But at e-book prices, would authors be motivated
to write?) Perhaps our school is behind the curve, laptop-wise. Clearly the
market for distance courses, at least, is made to order for the e-book.
Finally, there is the problem of students who are
determined to avoid the textbook entirely, electronic or not. I have one
colleague who says his course gets easier every time the student takes it.
Wishing you all an excellent 2008!
"Top 10 Gadgets of the Year," by Rob Beschizza, Wired News,
December 21, 2007 ---
"The Year in Energy: Advanced biofuels, more-efficient vehicles,
and solar power top the most notable energy stories of 2007," by Kevin Bullis,
MIT's Technology Review, December 27, 2007 ---
"The Year in Hardware: The past 12 months have featured touch
screens, context-aware gadgets, autonomous vehicles, and brain-computer
interfaces," by Kate Greene, MIT's Technology Review, December 26, 2007
From Business Week on November 28, 2007
This Year's Tech Pioneers ---
The 2007 Economy in Review (Audio)," by Jim Zaroli, NPR,
December 31, 2007 ---
From WebMD on January 2, 2008 ---
Top Ten Stupid Criminals of 2007 ---
(One stole a car in order to turn himself in. Wouldn't a phone call to the
police have been easier?)
"Record Data Breaches in 2007," by Mark Jewell, PhysOrg,
December 31, 2007 ---
The loss or theft of personal data such as credit
card and Social Security numbers soared to unprecedented levels in 2007, and
the trend isn't expected to turn around anytime soon as hackers stay a step
ahead of security and laptops disappear with sensitive information.
And while companies, government agencies, schools
and other institutions are spending more to protect ever-increasing volumes
of data with more sophisticated firewalls and encryption, the investment
often is too little too late.
"More of them are experiencing data breaches, and
they're responding to them in a reactive way, rather than proactively
looking at the company's security and seeing where the holes might be," said
Linda Foley, who founded the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center
after becoming an identity theft victim herself.
Foley's group lists more than 79 million records
reported compromised in the United States through Dec. 18. That's a nearly
fourfold increase from the nearly 20 million records reported in all of
Another group, Attrition.org, estimates more than
162 million records compromised through Dec. 21 - both in the U.S. and
overseas, unlike the other group's U.S.-only list. Attrition reported 49
million last year.
"It's just the nature of business, that moving
forward, more companies are going to have more records, so there will be
more records compromised each year," said Attrition's Brian Martin. "I
imagine the total records compromised will steadily climb."
But the biggest difference between the groups'
record-loss counts is Attrition.org's estimate that 94 million records were
exposed in a theft of credit card data at TJX Cos., the owner of discount
stores including T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. The TJX breach accounts for more
than half the total records reported lost this year on both groups' lists.
The Identity Theft Resource Center counts about 46
million - the number of records TJX acknowledged in March were potentially
compromised. Attrition's figure is based on estimates from Visa and
MasterCard officials who were deposed in a lawsuit banks filed against TJX.
The breach is believed to have started when hackers
intercepted wireless transfers of customer information at two Marshalls
stores in Miami - an entry point that led the hackers to eventually break
into TJX's central databases.
TJX has said that before the breach, which was
revealed in January, it invested "millions of dollars on computer security,
and believes our security was comparable to many major retailers."
Continued in article
Bob Jensen's threads on computer and networking security are at
"2007 a Year of Weather Records in U.S.," by Seth Borenstein,
PhysOrg, December 31, 2007 ---
When the calendar turned to 2007, the heat went on
and the weather just got weirder. January was the warmest first month on
record worldwide - 1.53 degrees above normal. It was the first time since
record-keeping began in 1880 that the globe's average temperature has been
so far above the norm for any month of the year.
And as 2007 drew to a close, it was also shaping up
to be the hottest year on record in the Northern Hemisphere.
U.S. weather stations broke or tied 263 all-time
high temperature records, according to an Associated Press analysis of U.S.
weather data. England had the warmest April in 348 years of record-keeping
there, shattering the record set in 1865 by more than 1.1 degrees
It wasn't just the temperature. There were other
oddball weather events. A tornado struck New York City in August, inspiring
the tabloid headline: "This ain't Kansas!"
In the Middle East, an equally rare cyclone spun up
in June, hitting Oman and Iran. Major U.S. lakes shrank; Atlanta had to
worry about its drinking water supply. South Africa got its first
significant snowfall in 25 years. And on Reunion Island, 400 miles east of
Africa, nearly 155 inches of rain fell in three days - a world record for
the most rain in 72 hours.
Individual weather extremes can't be attributed to
global warming, scientists always say. However, "it's the run of them and
the different locations" that have the mark of man-made climate change, said
top European climate expert Phil Jones, director of the climate research
unit at the University of East Anglia in England.
Worst of all - at least according to climate
scientists - the Arctic, which serves as the world's refrigerator,
dramatically warmed in 2007, shattering records for the amount of melting
2007 seemed to be the year that climate change
shook the thermometers, and those who warned that it was beginning to happen
were suddenly honored. Former Vice President Al Gore's documentary "An
Inconvenient Truth" won an Oscar and he shared the Nobel Peace Prize with
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international group of
thousands of scientists. The climate panel, organized by the United Nations,
released four major reports in 2007 saying man-made global warming was
incontrovertible and an urgent threat to millions of lives.
Through the first 10 months, it was the hottest
year recorded on land and the third hottest when ocean temperatures are
Smashing records was common, especially in August.
At U.S. weather stations, more than 8,000 new heat records were set or tied
for specific August dates.
More remarkably that same month, more than 100
all-time temperature records were tied or broken - regardless of the date -
either for the highest reading or the warmest low temperature at night. By
comparison only 14 all-time low temperatures were set or tied all year long,
as of early December, according to records kept by the National Climatic
For example, on Aug. 10, the town of Portland,
Tenn., reached 102 degrees, tying a record for the hottest it ever had been.
On Aug. 16, it hit 103 and Portland had a new all-time record. But that
record was broken again the next day when the mercury reached 105.
Daily triple-digit temperatures took a toll on
everybody, public safety director George West recalled. The state had 15
heat-related deaths in August.
Continued in article
"Predictions for 2008: The un-parodiable state of civil liberties in
America," by Radley Balko, Reason Magazine, December 21, 2007 ---
"Common blunders: Personal finance resolutions for 2008," by Carrie
Schwab Pomerantz, Town Hall, January 1, 2008 ---
Bob Jensen's personal finance helpers are at
From Time Magazine
What the World Eats (and how much it costs) ---
For those of you who may want to use this in class or in church, I temporarily
archived the core of this at
Seventh Annual Numby Awards (Scroll down to December 17, 2007 )---
"A Year-End List of Puzzlements," by Dan Greenberg, Chronicle of
Higher Education, December 2007 ---
1. What is a hedge fund and why aren’t they in jail?
2. How can the busiest travel day of the year be Labor Day, Memorial Day,
July 4, and also the day before Thanksgiving?
3. How does the AAA know that 57 million cars will be on the road, 6
percent more than last year?
4. Has any woman ever become “a new you by Christmas,” lost 30 pounds in
30 days, or cleaned up household clutter, on the basis of magazine advice?
5. Why do people give money to Harvard when it has $35-billion in the
bank? Same for lesser endowed but still very rich Yale, Stanford, U. of
6. Why don’t the feds deny money to any university whose investment
income exceeds its operating costs?
7. Is Bill Gates’s philanthropy sufficient penance for inflicting the
Microsoft operating system on a trusting public?
8. Why do economists say consumer spending is the key to prosperity, and
also warn that the nation’s savings rate is dangerously low?
9. Among the innumerable medals and honors annually awarded by learned
organizations, has any ever been withheld because nothing much happened in
the previous year?
10. How long will the public put up with the turmoils of Brad, Angelina,
Paris, Nick, and Jessica? And what’s happened to J-Lo? She’s gone from the
supermarket tabs. I miss her.
The history of Harvard University is briefly summarized at
A faculty of about 2,400 professors serve as of school year 2006-2007, with
6,715 undergraduate and 12,424 graduate students.
Rounding off to 20,000 students in total, the endowment per student is $
1,750,000 = $35,000,000,000/20,000
Invested at 6%, that $1,750,000 earns $105,000 per student (actually Harvard
earns a much higher rate of return on its endowment)
Why does Harvard charge any tuition to any student?
We all understand that being a rich white kid puts
one at a disadvantage in the college-admissions process. But it is worth pausing
to savor the irony of an institution that charges as much as $45,000 a year
asking its applicants to demonstrate their proletarian credentials. What's a
privileged kid to do? Ms. Hernández, a former admissions officer at Dartmouth,
offers a couple of options. "Be vague" about your parents' occupations: "If your
mom is the chief neurosurgeon for a New York hospital, try 'medical.' " Or you
could get yourself a job, "the less exalted the better," Ms. Hernández advises,
citing one boarding-school student who improved his admissions chances by baling
hay every summer (on his family's farm).
Naomi Schaefer Riley, "A Desperate Need for Acceptance: How to get into
college despite the disadvantage of privilege," The Wall Street Journal, January
3, 2007 ---
Actually the top private universities now offer free education to low income
students, but many fail to meet admissions criteria. Admissions of low income
students to top universities has actually been declining in recent years
according to the Chronicle of Higher Education Blog on January 2. 2008
Lake Superior University's 2008 List of Banned Words and Phrases ---
The 2007 Idiot of the Year Awards (includes attention-grabbing words) ---
Droopy pants at mall leads to family jailed Sheriff's office sends 20
deputies, 2 dogs, 1 helicopter after clothing dispute erupts ---
Are young people making more use or less use of libraries?
Many librarians and others
in higher education have worried that undergraduates, having learned to find
information (accurate and otherwise) online, would lose interest in libraries.
Actually Americans in the so-called Generation Y (ages 18-30) turn out to be
more likely to visit libraries than are other adults — both for problem solving
and for general use. That is a key finding of
released Sunday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Inside Higher Ed, December 31, 2007 ---
But this does not mean that students are reading more or would make use of
traditional library services like wandering the stacks or checking out books.
Libraries have changed with the times and now offer computers, wireless
connections to the Internet, and archives of multimedia other than books.
2005/2006 Compensation of Presidents of Private Institutions ---
Compensation of Presidents of Higher Education Institutions ---
How to check on a charity or church or college before you donate:
You can begin with IRS Form 990 disclosures, but these sometimes may be more misleading than helpful.
You can access them from Guidestar at http://www.guidestar.org/index.jsp
One problem is that reported "compensation" for executives may not include free houses, free cars, and free services like lawn care and catering.
Another problem is that rich alumni may provide college executives with free condo use, airline tickets, and club memberships.
Guidestar also provides salary disclosures for top executives in the non-profit organization.
However, funds can (such as charity crooks) can be diverted by cheats in other ways.
Nonprofit Compensation Reports
"7 Steps to Get Your New Computer Running Right," by Rob Pegoraro, The
Washington Post, December 20, 2007 ---
Your first order of business has to be
securing the machine from online attack. The
Internet abounds with crooks looking to hijack your
computer with some virus, worm or Trojan horse
Protecting a Windows machine involves activating any
security software bundled with the PC so it can
download updates to spot new viruses. You may need
to register an e-mail address with the security
vendor. No matter how annoying this is, get it done
can always switch to a better security program after
the first month or two at no cost because most new
PCs come with three months of free security updates.
Apple's Mac OS X has seen only
a handful of malware attacks, none successful, so
you don't need to buy a security-software suite.
(Really. Download the free ClamXav program --
if you want, but so far it has only helped stop Mac
users from forwarding Windows viruses by mistake.)
Macs do arrive with an important line of defense
left open: firewall software to block online worms.
To activate it, click the "System Preferences" icon
in the dock at the bottom of the screen, click its
"Security" icon, click the "Firewall" heading and
then click the button next to "Set access for
specific services and applications."
The next step is to download any
available security updates. In Windows Vista, click
on the "Start" menu, click "Control Panel" and then
click the "Check for updates" link. On a Mac, go to
the Apple-icon menu in the top left corner and
select "Software Update." Leave the computer alone
until it installs these patches.
But wait, there's more! On a
Mac or a PC, the Adobe Flash software that displays
those nifty animated elements on many Web sites most
likely needs updates. Go to Adobe's site for the
Windows users will also need
for updates to the Java and
QuickTime software many Web sites employ.
After you've added all these updates,
you can get rid of some unnecessary programs. Most
Windows machines arrive loaded with junk programs
that mostly waste space.
"Control Panel" again, then click the "Uninstall a
program" link to boot these unwanted items. The
60-day trial copy of Microsoft Office on most new
PCs should be among them -- it's cheaper to add
Office by buying the "Home and Student Edition."
Also consider evicting copies of AOL and, if you're
a Dell or Toshiba user, the third-rate Yahoo Music
ship with far less junk, but their trial copies of
Microsoft Office and Apple's iWork '08 can also be
tossed once they expire or you've bought one or the
other. To dump Office, open the Office 2004 folder
inside the Applications folder and double-click
"Remove Office." To do the same with iWork, drag its
folder from the Applications folder to the Trash.
You can then make some selective upgrades. The free
Mozilla Firefox browser (
works better than Internet
Explorer in Windows; on a Mac, it's a useful backup
to Apple's Safari. Apple's iTunes (
in turn, beats Microsoft's
Windows Media Player. And either Mozilla Thunderbird
or Microsoft's Windows Live Mail (
provides better e-mail tools
than Vista's Windows Mail.
As you're moving over your old files
and settings with Vista's Windows Easy Transfer or a
Mac's Migration Assistant, you shouldn't rush to
reinstall old programs. Some may not work with the
new machine's operating system; others may seem
redundant next to software already on the machine.
But first, see if you actually miss these
Never reinstall one type of software from the
original CDs -- the "drivers" that let the computer
talk to add-ons like printers. Download the latest
versions from the vendor's Web site instead.
If you're not sick of computer setup,
picking up some inexpensive hardware can spare you
vast amounts of trouble down the road. For a laptop
or a desktop, a hard drive or flash drive that plugs
into the computer will greatly ease backing up your
files. And if you own a desktop machine, plugging
into an uninterruptible power supply will stop you
from losing work whenever the lights flicker.
Bob Jensen's technology bookmarks are at
The schism between academic research and the
The outside world has little interest in research of the business school
If our research findings were important, there would be more demand for
replication of findings
"Business Education Under the Microscope: Amid growing charges of
irrelevancy, business schools launch a study of their impact on business,"
Business Week, December 26, 2007 ---
business-school world has been besieged by criticism in the
past few months, with prominent professors and writers
taking bold swipes at management education. Authors such as
management expert Gary Hamel and
Harvard Business School Professor
Rakesh Khurana have published books this fall expressing
skepticism about the direction in which business schools are
headed and the purported value of an MBA degree. The
December/January issue of the Academy of Management
Journal includes a
special section in which 10 scholars question the value of
deans may soon be able to counter that criticism, following
the launch of an ambitious study that seeks to examine the
overall impact of business schools on society. A new Impact
of Business Schools task force convened by the the
Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)—the
main organization of business schools—will mull over this
question next year, conducting research that will look at
management education through a variety of lenses, from
examining the link between business schools and economic
growth in the U.S. and other countries, to how management
ideas stemming from business-school research have affected
business practices. Most of the research will be new, though
it will build upon the work of past AACSB studies,
committee is being chaired by Robert Sullivan of the
University of California at San Diego's
Rady School of Management, and
includes a number of prominent business-school deans
including Robert Dolan of the University of Michigan's
Stephen M. Ross School of Business,
Linda Livingstone of Pepperdine University's
Graziado School of Business & Management, and
AACSB Chair Judy Olian, who is also the dean of UCLA's
Anderson School of Management.
Representatives from Google (GOOG)
and the Educational Testing Service will also participate.
The committee, which was formed this summer, expects to have
the report ready by January, 2009.
Alison Damast recently spoke with Olian about the committee
and the potential impact of its findings on the
There has been a rising tide of
criticism against business schools recently, some of it from
within the B-school world. For example, Professor Rakesh
Khurana implied in his book
From Higher Aims to Hired Hands
(BusinessWeek.com, 11/5/07) that
management education needs to reinvent itself. Did this have
any effect on the AACSB's decision to create the Impact of
Business Schools committee?
I think that
is probably somewhere in the background, but I certainly
don't view that as in any way the primary driver or
particularly relevant to what we are thinking about here.
What we are looking at is a variety of ways of commenting on
what the impact of business schools is. The fact is, it
hasn't been documented and as a field we haven't really
asked those questions and we need to. I don't think a study
like this has ever been done before.
Continued in article
Bob Jensen's threads on the growing
irrelevance of academic accounting research are at
The dearth of research findings replications
Bob Jensen's threads on higher education
controversies are at
January 2, 2008 reply from David Albrecht
AACSB chair Judy Olian (dean, UCLA school of biz)
is quoted as saying that 39% of Fortune 500 CEOs are graduates of a
I am surprised that this is such a low number. Why
shouldn't this number be very much higher? Given that corporations are run
by professional managers, why wouldn't the college degree that prepares
professional managers show up with greater frequency in the profile of the
top professional managers?
I don't know how it is possible for this group of
deans to design a research study to show the relevance of business school
education. Well, I don't know how it would be possible for anyone to design
it. Isn't relevance a judgment call?
January 2, 2008 reply from Bob Jensen
CEOs rise up from many walks of life, especially engineering, economics,
law, and the specialties of an industry such as chemistry, medicine,
agriculture, etc. CFOs and CAOs are another matter entirely.
As far as research impacts are determined, subjective judgment is
certainly a huge factor but there are other indicators. Can executives
recall a single article published in The Accounting Review or other leading
academic accounting journal upon which academic reputations are built? Can
executives name one author who received the AAA Seminal Contributions Award
or any other academic award of major academic associations?
One indicator in accounting is practitioner membership in the American
Accounting Association. The AAA started out as primarily an association for
accounting practitioners and teachers of accounting. For four decades
practitioners were heavily involved in the AAA and the longest-running
editor of The Accounting Review was a practitioner (Kohler) ---
All this changed with what Jean Heck and I call the "perfect storm" of
the 1960s. Since then, practitioner membership steadily declined in the AAA
and readership of academic accounting research journals plummeted to
virtually zero. Practitioners still send us their money and their
recruiters, but leading academic researchers like Joel Demski warn against
accounting researchers catching a "vocational virus" and cringe at aiming
our research talent toward practical problems of the profession for which we
seemingly have no comparative advantage due to our rather useless accountics
You can read much of the history of this schism at
The schism is probably greatest in accounting and the smallest in finance
where there practitioners have relied more on research findings and fads in
economics and finance journals.
Some universities are more focused on industry than others. Harvard
certainly has tried very hard in this regard, but Harvard's case method
research just cannot pass the hurdles of the journal referees of our leading
accounting research journals.
And even accounting academics are bored with the (yawn) articles
appearing in our academic research journals. Ron Dye is probably one of our
most esoteric accountics researchers (his degrees are in mathematics and
economics even though he's an "accounting professor"). Ron stated the
Begin Quote from Ron Dye***************
About the question: by and large, I think it is
a mistake for someone interested in pursuing an academic career in
accounting not to get a phd in accounting. If you look at the "success"
stories, there aren't many: most of the people who make a post-phd
transition fail. I think that happens for a couple reasons. 1. I think
some of the people that transfer late do it for the money, and aren't
really all that interested in accounting. While the $ are nice, it is
impossible to think about $ when you are trying to come up with an idea,
and anyway, you're unlikely to come up with an idea unless you're really
interested in the subject. 2. I think, almost independent of the field,
unless you get involved in the field at an early age, for some reason it
becomes very hard to develop good intuition for the area - which is a
second reason good problems are often not generated by "crossovers."
The bigger thing - not related to the question
you raise - but maybe you could add to the discussion is that there are,
as far as I can tell, not a lot of new ideas being put forth by anyone
in accounting nowadays (with the possible exception of John Dickhaut's
neuro stuff). In most fields, the youngsters are supposed to come up
with the new problems, techniques, etc., but I see a lot more mimicry
than innovation among newly minted phds now.
Anyway, for what it's worth....
End Quote from Ron Dye****************
Perhaps the AACSB can make some progress toward bridging the schism. But
I leave you with a forthcoming quote in the January 6 edition of Tidbits:
Question "How many professors does it take to change a light bulb?"
Answer "Whadaya mean, "change"?" Bob Zemsky, Chronicle of Higher
Education's Chronicle Review, December 2007
No Fair Preparing for Class
Only Scabs Read the Fine Print on Their Shirt Cuffs
"Strike Price," The Wall Street Journal, December 29, 2007; Page A10
Next week, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan
O'Brien, Jon Stewart and a host of others will resume their programs without
support from their striking writers. We guess this means we'll finally learn
the answer to how many comedians it takes to screw in a Dick Cheney joke.
The deal the late-night comics struck with the
unionized writers sounds like a bizarre Letterman routine. The hosts agreed
to abide by rules that prohibit them from writing anything. If they
physically write something, that makes them scabs. But it's OK if they just
show up and ad lib their way into the New Year. We can't wait.
Continued in article
Letterman later worked out a deal and returned with writers.
And it's no fair remembering an old joke seen or heard somewhere sometime. Man
this has to be original stuff off the wall at all times. I wonder if this also
applies to guests. Are they warned not to remember anything funny in their
lives? It'll probably be a whole lot more fun trying to make babies until the
writers' strike ends.
Second best might be to watch accountants party.
Partying Accountants (video links forwarded by David Albrecht)
Bob Jensen's threads on accounting humor are at
And if accounting jokes don't suffice, think up conversations between
What did 0 say to 8?
What did 1 say to 9?
What did 1 ask 6?
"Why didn't you listen when I said FibreCon works better than Benefiber?"
What did 1 say to 2?
"It's high time you straightened out."
What did 8 say to 3?
"I didn't know you went to Pakistan last week."
Shopping Malls Past and Present: Why they are Dying ---
Also see the Retail History Blog at
Also see "Birth and Death of Shopping," The Economist, December 22, 2007,
pp. 102-103 ---
By the early 1980s indoor shopping centres were
woven tightly into American culture. New cuisines (the term is perhaps too
grand) emerged in them, thanks to chains like Cinnabon and Panda Express,
which did not exist outside malls. They began to swell to the point of
absurdity. Canada's West Edmonton Mall, which opened in 1982, has an
ice-skating rink, a pool with sea-lions and an indoor bungee jump. The Mall
of America, in Minnesota, has three rollercoasters and more than 500 shops
arranged in “streets” designed to appeal to different age groups. Every
morning it opens early to accommodate a group of “mall walkers” who trudge
around its 0.57-mile perimeter for exercise.
Artists and urban anthropologists began to note the
appearance of mall-based tribes. Most celebrated—and lampooned—were the
Valley girls who congregated in California's Glendale Galleria. Frank
Zappa's then-teenage daughter, Moon Unit, wrote a hit song that captured
their argot (“ohmigod!”, “no biggie”, “grody to the max”, “total space
cadet”) and praised the Galleria for having “like, all these, like, really
great shoe stores”. Mall-oriented films followed, spreading the Valley
girls' culture like spores in the wind.
Just as the onward march of malls began to seem
unstoppable, though, things began to go wrong. In just a few years they
turned from temples of consumption to receptacles for social problems. The
changing attitude to shopping malls can be seen in two films, both of which,
appropriately, are to cinema what Panda Express is to the Chinese culinary
George Romero's “Dawn of the Dead”, released in
1978, is ostensibly a story about a group of people struggling to survive in
a world taken over by flesh-eating zombies. But it is also a commentary on
the lurid appeal of shopping malls, which were then multiplying quickly.
That becomes clear a third of the way through the film, when the humans must
decide where to take refuge. They rule out the cities, which are thick with
monsters. Yet they need food, water and fuel, which are hard to find in the
wilderness. They decide to head for a suburban shopping mall.
. . .
By the 1990s malls were in trouble
Having bred too quickly, they began to cannibalise
each other. (Turn left out of Southdale's car park and the first building
you pass is another shopping mall.) Discount shops, factory-outlet stores
and category killers like Toys “R” Us ate into their profits. As middle-aged
shoppers began to disappear, the teenagers who had inhabited malls from the
beginning became more noticeable, which only made things worse. In 1998 Good
Housekeeping ran a story entitled “Danger at the Mall”. Indoor shopping
malls are now so out of favour that not one will be built in America before
2009 at the earliest, according to the International Council of Shopping
One reason for the malls' problems is that the
suburbs have changed. When the Southdale shopping centre opened on the
outskirts of Minneapolis, the suburbs were almost entirely white and
middle-class. Whites were fleeing a wave of new arrivals from the South (the
black population of Minneapolis rose by 155% between 1940 and 1960).
Although Gruen could not bear to admit it, his invention appealed to those
who wanted downtown's shops without its purported dangers. These days, in
Minneapolis as in much of America, the ethnic drift is in the opposite
direction. The suburbs are becoming much more racially mixed while the
cities fill up with hip, affluent whites. As a result, suburban malls no
longer provide a refuge from diversity.
So many malls have died or are dying that a new
hobby has appeared: amateur shopping-mall history. Like many esoteric
pursuits, this has been facilitated by the internet. Websites such as
Deadmalls.com and Labelscar.com collect pictures of weedy car parks and
empty food courts and try to explain how once-thriving shopping centres
began to spiral downward. Some of the recollections are faintly ironic or
gloating. Yet the strongest note is anguish. Implausibly, these online
histories reveal the deep emotional connections that people can establish
One of the most touching is a website devoted to
Lakehurst mall near Chicago, which was demolished in 2004. Prodded by a
local journalist, women and a few men write in with memories of
back-to-school shopping trips, ear piercings, first jobs at Cinnabon and
Orange Julius, early dates and even marriage proposals. Many are bereft at
the mall's demolition, as though suffering the death of a pet. “You don't
realise how much you miss something until it is gone,” writes one. Others
are almost apologetic: “If only we knew what we had, we would never have
strayed to other malls.”
As shopping malls decline, they sometimes come to
resemble the civic centres that Gruen intended them to be. Attracted by
cheap rents, community groups and police stations move in. On a trip to one
of Gruen's creations, the now-desolate Carousel Mall in San Bernardino, your
correspondent encountered a group of middle-aged Mexicans studying for the
American citizenship test.
Not all malls have suffered from competition and
the suburbs' transformation. Some have prospered by appealing to growing
ethnic-minority groups. American malls are courting middle-class Latinos by
adding butchers' shops and, in some cases, by decking themselves out to
resemble Mexican villages. La Gran Plaza, in the Texas town of Fort Worth,
lays on mariachi and reggaeton acts and is building a rodeo. Other malls
changed their clientele without adjusting their look. Brent Cross shopping
centre, one of Britain's earliest malls, now contains shops staffed by
second- and third-generation Asians selling to new arrivals from eastern
The mall goes downtown
Yet without white, middle-aged women few British or
American shopping centres could survive. One bold attempt to lure them back
can be seen at the corner of Third Street and Fairfax Boulevard in Los
Angeles. The Grove shopping centre, which opened in 2002, performs all the
functions of a mall without looking at all like one. Like Southdale, it has
fountains, flowers, piped music and a good selection of underwear. But the
Grove is open to the elements, the plants are real and, rather than vaguely
evoking a town centre, it is actually done up to look like one. Or rather
(this being Los Angeles) a fantasy amalgam of several town centres.
Continued in Article
Philosophers Look Toward Artificial Intelligence and Learning
"Upgrading to Philosophy 2.0," by Andy Guess, Inside Higher Ed,
December 31, 2007 ---
There was no theorizing about ghosts in the machine
at an annual meeting of philosophers last Friday. Instead, they embraced
technology’s implications for their field, both within the classroom and
. . .
The reason for those misconceptions, Croy argued,
is that adaptive learning techniques require AI, and good AI algorithms
require long-term empirical research into how students learn and which
methods predict classroom success. Moreover, he said, if a computer program
that employs AI increases the range of students being taught, any economy of
scale would be counterbalanced by the greater diversity of learning
approaches reached — and that would require further development into more
sophisticated processes to encompass them (and more money).
Bypassing that vicious cycle requires some brains,
and not just the human kind. The problem becomes: How can a program learn
how an individual student thinks, and use that insight to offer constructive
suggestions as he or she works online?
One of Croy’s attempts to solve that problem
involves a system designed to provide intelligent help to students
constructing deductive proofs. As they graphically map out the steps from a
given initial proposition to the provided end point, the software ideally
provides helpful suggestions to students who can be working both forward and
backward at the same time.
In looking for an algorithm that can offer hints
“in a way that doesn’t cost us an arm and a leg,” Croy noted, the software
employs a mathematical model called a
Markov decision process that can map students’
steps toward the solution and “learn” the chosen path as they work. Such
proofs can be solved in varying sequences, so the possibilities are
“They do stuff that I wouldn’t have expected them
to do,” Croy said of the students. By anticipating the logical direction of
the students’ reasoning, the program can ideally guide them along the way.
To see if such techniques are empirically useful,
Croy also tested to see if he could predict students’ performance in his
class early on, based on results from a computerized test of “justified
thought” — for example, choosing from a multiple-choice list whether a given
logical sequence was an example of
modus tollens or neither. By dividing one class of
50 into two groups, one whose grades were below 65 percent and those with 65
or higher, Croy found that the test predicted their performance “fairly
This being a meeting of philosophers, he touched on
a few of the ethical implications of his work, such as the potential of
conflicting roles as both a teacher and a researcher within the same
classroom. “It does put you in a very strange position,” he admitted, since
students could be both pupils and subjects at the same time. One clear
solution, he said, was to seek informed consent. At the same time, Croy
raised the question of whether technology should seek to replace or
supplement student-teacher interactions.
In his own experience, he said, “the class is a lot
better today than it used to be a year ago.”
Continued in article
Bob Jensen's threads on Cognitive Processes and Artificial Intelligence
A ‘Radical’ Rethinking of Scholarly Publishing
"Upgrading to Philosophy 2.0," by Andy Guess, Inside Higher Ed,
December 31, 2007 ---
There was no theorizing about ghosts in the machine
at an annual meeting of philosophers last Friday. Instead, they embraced
technology’s implications for their field, both within the classroom and
. . .
Harriet E. Baber of the University of San Diego
thinks scholars should try to make their work as accessible as possible,
forget about the financial rewards of publishing and find alternative ways
to referee each other’s work. In short, they should ditch the current system
of paper-based academic journals that persists, she said, by “creating
scarcity,” “screening” valuable work and providing scholars with entries in
“Now why would it be a bad thing if people didn’t
pay for the information that we produce?” she asked, going over the
traditional justifications for the current order — an incentive-based
rationale she dubbed a “right wing, free marketeer, Republican argument.”
Instead, she argued, scholars (and in particular,
philosophers) should accept that much of their work has little market value
("we’re lucky if we could give away this stuff for free") and embrace the
intrinsic rewards of the work itself. After all, she said, they’re salaried,
and “we don’t need incentives external [to] what we do.”
That doesn’t include only journal articles, she
said; class notes fit into the paradigm just as easily. “I want any
prospective student to see this and I want all the world to see” classroom
materials, she added.
Responding to questions from the audience, she
noted that journals’ current function of refereeing content wouldn’t get
lost, since the “middlemen” merely provide a venue for peer review, which
would still happen within her model.
“What’s going to happen pragmatically is the paper
journals will morph into online journals,” she said.
Part of the purpose of holding the session, she
implied, was to nudge the APA into playing a greater role in any such
transition: “I’m hoping that the APA will organize things a little better.”
Bob Jensen's threads on rethinking tenure are at
Lawyers Don't Like Being Ranked
It's a sunny day in Seattle when two lawyers can bring
a class action suit on their own behalf -- and then see it rejected on First
Amendment grounds. That's what happened last week in the Emerald City, when
Federal District Judge Robert S. Lasnik ruled that there was no basis for
cracking down on a lawyer-rating Web site merely because some of its ratees
didn't like how they were portrayed. The site, called Avvo, does for lawyers
what any number of magazines and Web sites have been doing for other professions
for years. Magazines regularly publish stories that rank an area's doctors and
dentists. There are rating sites and blogs for the "best" hairstylists,
manicurists, restaurants and movie theaters. Almost any consumer product or
service these days is sorted and ranked.
"Judging Lawyers," The Wall Street Journal, December 24, 2007; Page A10
Avvo Lawyer Ratings ---
In fairness most of these ranking systems are misleading. For example,
physicians and lawyers who lose more often may also be willing to take on the
tougher cases having low probabilities of success. Especially note
"Challenging Measures of Success" at
And some professionals that win a lot may do so because they do so in
unethical ways. And lawyers, like physicians, have different specialties such
that in the realm of a particular specialty, maybe one that rarely call out,
from over 100 specialties, they may be outstanding.
Bob Jensen's threads assessment are at
Bob Jensen threads on college ranking controversies are at
Lawyers Like the Subprime Litigation Cash Cow
"The finger of suspicion," The Economist, December 19, 2007 ---
FINANCIAL firms have already been drenched by
mortgage-related losses. Now a wave of litigation threatens to assail them.
According to RiskMetrics, a consulting firm, between August and October
federal securities class-action lawsuits were filed in America at an
annualised pace of around 270—more than double last year's total and well
above the historical average. At this rate, claims could easily exceed those
of the dotcom bust and options-backdating scandal combined.
At most risk are banks that peddled mortgages or
mortgage-backed securities. Investors have handed several writs to Citigroup
and Merrill Lynch. Bear Stearns has received dozens over the collapse of two
leveraged hedge funds. A typical complaint accuses it of failing to make
adequate reserves or to explain the risks of its subprime investments, and
of dubious related-party transactions with the funds. Several firms,
including E*Trade, a discount broker with a banking arm sitting on a
radioactive pile of mortgage debt, are being sued for allegedly failing to
disclose problems as they became apparent to managers.
But one thing that sets the subprime litigation
wave apart from that of the 2001-03 bear market is its breadth. After the
collapses of Enron and WorldCom, lawsuits were targeted at a fairly narrow
range of parties: bust internet firms, their accountants and some banks.
This time, investors are aiming not only at mortgage lenders, brokers and
investment banks but also insurers (American International Group), bond
funds (State Street, Morgan Keegan), rating agencies (Moody's and Standard &
Poor's) and homebuilders (Beazer Homes, Toll Brothers et al).
Borrowers, too, are suing both their lenders and
the Wall Street firms that wrapped up their loans. Several groups of
employees and pension-fund participants have filed so-called ERISA/401(k)
suits against their own firms. Local councils in Australia are threatening
to sue a subsidiary of Lehman Brothers over the sale of collateralised-debt
obligations (CDOs), the Financial Times has reported. Lenders are even
turning on each other; Deutsche Bank has filed large numbers of lawsuits
against mortgage firms, claiming they owe money for failing to buy back
loans that soured within months of being made.
“It seems that everyone is suing everyone,” says
Adam Savett of RiskMetrics' securities-litigation group. “It surely can't be
long before we get the legal equivalent of man bites dog, where a lender
sues its borrowers for some breach of contract.”
Continued in article
Bob Jensen's threads on lawyers who are "Rotten to the Core" are at
Lawyers Love Asbestos Fraud
"DJ's Free Pass for Tort Fraud," by Lester Brickman, The Wall Street
Journal, December 26, 2007; Page A11 ---
The defects of the U.S. Department of
Justice have been the subject of much commentary. But the allegations of
incompetence or worse pale when compared to the free pass it has given to
doctors and lawyers to commit mass tort fraud, exceeding $30 billion in the
past 15 years.
Over one million potential litigants
have been screened by agents for tort lawyers in asbestos, silica, silicone
breast implant and diet drug (fen-phen) litigation. The lawyers sponsoring
these screenings have paid over $100 million for medical reports to support
the 700,000 or more claims generated by these screenings. There is
compelling evidence, much of it reviewed in my published writings, that the
vast majority of these medical reports, including chest X-ray readings,
echocardiograms, pulmonary function tests and diagnoses are bogus.
U.S. District Court Judge Janis Jack,
appointed by President Bill Clinton, blew the whistle on this type of fraud
two years ago. It was, she stated, "clear that lawyers, doctors and
screening companies were all willing participants . . . [in a scheme to]
manufacture . . . [diagnoses] for money."
For a while, it appeared that Judge
Jack's extensively documented findings would spur law enforcement to curb
mass tort fraud. Indeed, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern
District of New York, which launched an investigation of fraudulent asbestos
claims more than three years ago, was invigorated by Judge Jack's findings
to empanel a grand jury.
But it now appears as if neither this
U.S. Attorney's Office nor the parent Department of Justice is going to
prosecute mass tort fraud. Six months ago there were signs that Justice was
moving forward on some key cases involving one or more of the litigation
doctors. Now, unfortunately, that activity appears to have all but ceased.
The dimensions of this fraud are
stunning. An asbestos screening of 1,000 potential litigants generates about
500-600 diagnoses of asbestosis. If these same occupationally exposed
workers were examined in clinical settings, approximately 30-50 would be
diagnosed with asbestosis. The total take for "excess" asbestos diagnoses is
more than $25 billion, of which $10 billion has gone to the lawyers. More
billions for bogus claims in the diet drug (fen-phen) and silicone breast
implant litigations can be added to this bill.
A comparative handful of doctors and
technicians are responsible for the vast majority of bogus medical tests and
diagnoses. To indict and prosecute those responsible would require testimony
from other doctors that the mass-produced diagnoses cannot have been
rendered in good faith.
To be sure, doctors can differ in
reading X-rays or making a diagnosis. But when a doctor has been paid
millions of dollars to produce 5,000 or even 50,000 diagnoses in the course
of mass-tort screenings -- and when panels of experts have found the vast
majority of these to be in error -- the most compelling conclusion is that
the diagnoses were "manufactured for money."
Prosecutors on the federal and state
level are nonetheless concerned that such a "battle of the experts" will
raise reasonable doubt in the minds of juries, and so they decline to
prosecute these doctors, let alone the lawyers who hired them. This
decision, however, gives the doctors a special dispensation to commit fraud.
Asbestos litigation screenings ceased
about four years ago when it appeared that the Congress would create an
administrative resolution of asbestos claims, and Judge Jack's findings
attracted prosecutorial interest. But now that it has become clear that this
Department of Justice has retired from the mass-tort fray, temptations are
proving too powerful to resist.
A few weeks ago, a full-scale
asbestos litigation screening was held in Bartlesville, Okla. Lawyers may be
dipping their toes in the water to see if prosecutors will respond.
If so, they will find that the tepid
response of this Justice Department is just what their doctors ordered. We
can then expect a resumption of the generation of bogus claims on a mass
scale. This would indeed be a shameful reflection on this or any Department
Mr. Brickman is a professor of law at the Cardozo School
of Law of Yeshiva University.
Bob Jensen's threads on lawyers who are "Rotten to the Core" are at
"Yale Professor at Peking U. Assails Widespread Plagiarism in China,"
Chronicle of Higher Education, December 21, 2007 ---
A Yale University professor has written a stern
letter expressing concern about widespread plagiarism by students he taught
at Peking University this fall.
“The fact that I have encountered this much
plagiarism … tells me something about the behavior of other professors and
administrators here,” Stephen Stearns, a professor of ecology and
evolutionary biology, wrote to his students. “They must tolerate a lot of
it, and when they detect it, they cover it up without serious punishment,
probably because they do not want to lose face. If they did punish it, it
would not be this frequent.”
Plagiarism and other forms of academic corruption
common in Chinese higher education for years, even
as the authorities try to raise academic standards.
Mr. Stearns went on to attack the lack of
protection for intellectual-property rights in China, even citing the
pirating of his own textbook by Peking University itself, a premier Chinese
institution that is often called Beida. “Disturbingly, plagiarism fits into
a larger pattern of behavior in China,” he wrote. “China ignores
international intellectual-property rights. Beida sees nothing wrong in
copying my textbook, for example, in complete violation of international
copyright agreements, causing me to lose income, stealing from me quite
Chinese translations of the strongly worded letter,
titled “To My Students in Beijing, Fall 2007,” quickly spread around the
Chinese-language Internet. It was also published on
New Threads, a Chinese Web site that reports cases
of plagiarism in China. (The English original follows the Chinese
Continued in article
Bob Jensen's threads on plagiarism are at
Following on the heels of Stanford University's MBA
of courses, Columbia University revamps its MBA curriculum ---
Miami University makes an even more dramatic revamping,
internationalizing, and shortening of MBA curriculum (with a 2.5-month boot
Watch the Video ---
Making a Killing in Country Music
"Someone's killing country music stars: 13 brutal murders in
last 18 months bear signs of underworld executions," WebNetDaily,
December 23, 2007 ---
Where are the speed traps in your community?
Forwarded by Auntie Bev
This is interesting... When you get to the website,
click on a state.
Then in the next window is a listing of all the
cities in that state.
Click on your city, and the speed traps will be
The Speed Traps!
I had no idea this was available to everyone...
click on the main link below.
Bob Jensen's travel helpers are at
At Long Last
Open Source Public Access Mandate Now Law
From the University of Illinois Issues in Scholarly Communication,
December 27, 2007 ---
Yesterday, President Bush signed into law the
Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 (H.R.
2764), which includes a provision directing the
National Institutes of Health to provide the public with open online access
to findings from its funded research. This is the first time the U.S.
government has mandated public access to research funded by a major agency.
Readers may recall that the NIH's existing public
access policy was implemented as a voluntary measure in 2005. With the
enactment of this new law, researchers will be required to deposit
electronic copies of their peer-reviewed manuscripts into
the National Library of Medicine's online repository,
no later than 12 months after publication in a journal.
Many leading scientists, patient advocates,
librarians, and others had lobbied for years to make research funded by tax
dollars accessible to the public. This new mandate now will provide
unfettered access to scientific findings for everyone seeking them.
Bob Jensen's threads on scholarly journal publishing oligopolies and
frauds are at
Bob Jensen's threads on open sharing are at
Million Book Project Reaches 1.5 Million Book Mark
From the Carnegie Mellon newsletter...
Bob Jensen's threads on free electronic literature are at
"The Subprime Housing Crisis," by Nobel Laureate Gary Becker, The
Becker-Posner Blog, December 23, 2007 ---
The United States housing market is riddled with
subsidies and regulations, including among many others, insurance by the
Federal Housing authority of mortgages to first time and low income
homeowners, tax deductibility of interest payments on mortgages –to families
that itemize their deductions- and the quasi-governmental Fannie Mae and
Fannie Mac Corporations that channel billions of dollars to the mortgage
market. Nevertheless, both the White House and leading Congressional
Democrats have proposed additional rules to help borrowers who may have
difficulty avoiding foreclosure under present conditions. Treasury Secretary
Paulson has been negotiating "voluntary" agreements with mortgage lenders to
freeze the low introductory rates for five years on some subprime home
loans, and to offer borrowers the right to refinance their loans into more
affordable mortgages. The Democrats want to go much further than the
administration, and have proposed, for example, to help homeowners
renegotiate terms of their mortgages if forced into bankruptcy.
I am skeptical of additional government
interventions into a housing market that already has too much. To be sure,
homeowners who only temporarily have trouble meeting repayment schedules on
their mortgages should not have to go into foreclosure. But lenders already
have strong incentives to help these borrowers since lenders are also hurt
by foreclosures, especially in the current weak housing market where it is
not possible to sell repossessed homes at reasonable prices in poorer
neighborhoods. Lenders also have much better evidence and experience than
governments can ever have regarding which borrowers have a reasonable chance
of handling their mortgages if given some temporary help, such as allowing
selected borrowers to be in arrears on payments for a while, permitting some
borrowers to renegotiate terms, and making other adjustments that raise the
likelihood of eventual repayment. Lenders also are better informed about
which borrowers are hopelessly in debt, and are better off going into
bankruptcy rather than trying to sacrifice savings or consumption to meet
their mortgage payments.
A counterargument to this skepticism is that the
government should intervene further in the housing market because the Fed is
partly responsible for the crisis by keeping interest rates artificially
low. Perhaps the Fed did keep the federal funds rate too low for a couple of
years preceding the onset of the crisis, but low interest rates were found
worldwide. The main reason for the low rates was not the Fed, but the high
savings rates in China and other rapidly developing nations that put
pressure on interest rates all over the world.
Instead, the Fed, Treasury, and Congress should
concentrate on using monetary and possibly taxl policies to help maintain
the strength of the American economy that has so far done well despite the
housing crisis. If these policies can help promote continued growth of GDP,
probably for several months at a slower pace than during the past few years,
with a robust labor market and low unemployment, borrowers in reasonably
good economic shape will likely keep their homes as they navigate through
the housing crisis.
"The Subprime Housing Crisis Reply," by Richard Posner,
The Becker-Posner Blog, December 23, 2007 ---
What Is to Be Done? In my opinion, nothing. There
have always been bubbles. There will always be bubbles because of the
factors that I have been discussing. The Federal Reserve Board, though ably
led and staffed, missed the mortgage bubble just as it missed the tech-stock
bubble that exploded in 2000. The proposals now on the table for resolving
the subprime mortgage "crisis" or preventing future such fiascos include,
first, requiring that more information be given to prospective borrowers
and, second, that mortgage interest adjustments be frozen or other measures
taken to reduce foreclosures. Information is not the problem, as I have
argued; and bailing out the borrowers, which is to say truncating downside
risk, will set the stage for a future housing bubble. Nor is it a good
excuse for the second class of measures that we must at all costs avoid a
recession. A major depression, such as we last experienced in the 1930s,
imposes immense social costs in the form of lost output. A recession
involving some temporary unemployment may impose lower social costs than
governmental interventions designed to head it off.
"Foreign Texts Can Get Lost in Translation," by Armad Ali, The Wall
Street Journal, December 20, 2007; Page B1 ---
As the need for global communication increases,
online translation services are in greater demand. Users are attracted to
the breakneck speed at which online translation is done and the price. Those
that aren't free are still fairly inexpensive.
New languages have been added to the traditional
lists and Arabic, in particular, has been in demand recently. I spent the
past few weeks tinkering with four free online services, translating various
texts from English to Arabic and vice versa to test their speed and
accuracy. I tested Google's Language Tools and services from Applied
Language Solutions, WorldLingo Translations and Systran.
Customers who have been waiting for such services
to be perfected will find improvements are slow in coming. Overall, I found
the Arabic-English translations rife with syntactic and semantic errors --
from the merely too-literal to the laughably bad.
For the purposes of my test, I selected different
texts: conversation, news stories, and legal and scientific documents.
First, I picked an Associated Press story that started with the sentence: "A
wintry storm caked the center of the nation with a thick layer of ice
I got a variety of imprecise translations into
Arabic (which I'm interpreting below).
Applied Language and WorldLingo offered identical
translations, which were slightly better than the other two: "A storm
covered the center's storm from the nation with a thick layer snow Monday."
Systran: "A stormy storm covered the center for the
mother with a thick layer snow Monday."
Language Tools: "The storm grilled bloc in the
middle of the nation with a thick layer of snow Monday."
The translations would have been nearly impossible
to understand were I not fluent in both languages. It's worse in Arabic than
it seems above. Arabic has masculine and feminine nouns, verbs and
adjectives that have to agree in a sentence; otherwise, the sentence makes a
native speaker wince.
Next, I processed some longer news stories. Only
Language Tools didn't set text limits. WorldLingo and Applied Language each
had a 150-word limit. Systran didn't specify a limit, but it rendered only a
short part of the text.
Language Tools came out ahead this time. It was the
only one to translate the word "Taliban" from Arabic to English contextually
correct, as a movement. The other services translated it literally from the
Arabic as "two students."
The services were better at translating everyday
phrases, but even these sometimes came out missing a word, or were
In this category, I again found translations by
Google's Language Tools closest to the original texts. Still, there is much
room for improvement. Google, for example, translated from Arabic to English
the simple question, "Do you speak English?" as "Do they speak English?"
Other services got the pronoun right but botched
other parts of the sentence. With the exception of Google, all three
services, oddly, attempted to write the Arabic word for "English" in the
Roman alphabet (aalaanklyzyh) in the middle of an Arabic sentence.
All the services did a terrible job with metaphors
and other figurative uses of the language, whether Arabic or English.
The weakest performance by all the services was the
translation of legal and scientific texts. Only Language Tools correctly
translated the word "noncompliance" in a legal text, for example. Instead of
using the proper word in Arabic, the other services transliterated it
phonetically into a meaningless word.
All four services have an interface that is easy to
use, with a pull-down menu listing several languages. Each has two text
boxes, one for the original language and the other for the desired
translation. They also translate entire Web sites, but the translation again
tended to be awkwardly verbatim.
Google also has a feature that lets you translate
search results free. (It also offers users an option to send in a better
translation.) The others require you to become a paid subscriber. English
and Arabic results appeared side-by-side.
I also liked WorldLingo and Applied Language's
email-translation feature. After clicking the email button, a window with
two text boxes pops up. You enter your name and email address, and the
recipient's name and address. When you send the message with WorldLingo,
both recipient and sender see the message in both languages. Neither Google
nor Systran has this feature.
Systran has a convenient swap button that lets
users easily flip the source and target languages. This saves time when
going back-and-forth between two languages. The other services have you use
pull-down menus. Systran's interface also allows prompt translation of a
text as soon as it's pasted in a text box, without the need to click a
Free online translation tools help travelers or
those curious about languages, but I found them unreliable for important
documents. Use with caution.
Bob Jensen's threads on foreign language translation are at
"Flunking Free Speech The persistent threat to liberty on college campuses,"
by Michael C. Moynihan, Reason Magazine, December 24, 2007 ---
the liberal New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis
advised his young readers—a
constituency he mistakenly assumed existed—that if they felt
wounded, were abnormally thin-skinned, or desirous of
professorial protection against a delicate sensibility, they
might consider enrolling at the University of Massachusetts
at Amherst, an institution possessing rigorous safeguards
against various forms of "harassment." This was all rather
surprising to Lewis because, as he noted, "Speech codes at
universities had seemed to be on the decline. Several were
held unconstitutional. So it is of more than parochial
interest that an extraordinarily sweeping code should be
proposed in this supposedly liberal-minded state."
distressing then that, 12 years hence, these Stakhanovite
commissars of sensitivity are still laboring against nature.
The virus of teenage insensitivity has proven stubbornly
resistant to social engineering schemes. According to a new
report from the
Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
(FIRE), an indefatigable organization
devoted to protecting free speech on campus, Lewis's
decade-old advice has sadly gone unheeded.
"Spotlight on Speech Codes 2007"
(PDF) found that a full 75 percent of
the 346 colleges surveyed "continue to explicitly prohibit
various forms of expression that are protected by the First
Amendment." To qualify as a "red light" violator—the worst
of three designated classifications-a school must have "at
least one policy that both clearly and substantially
restricts freedom of speech." These include overly
restrictive anti-harassment policies and broadly worded
prohibitions against "degrading comments" and "hostile"
learning environments. It found further that only 4
percent—yes, 4 percent—of schools surveyed had "no
policies that seriously imperil speech."
As reason contributing editor Cathy Young
observed in 2004, and as both
critical observers and wounded veterans of the previous
decade's campus culture wars clearly misunderstood,
political correctness, despite a concerted campaign to
counter it, has proved surprisingly resilient. And it is
doubtless true that FIRE's findings will be all too familiar
to those currently enrolled in an American university.
After a period of sustained news coverage in the early
1990s, P.C. outrages went from shocking to de rigueur,
with only the truly bizarre, the shocking and outrageous,
escaping from the pages of student newspapers into the
national-or even regional-press. Thanks to the intercession
of FIRE, a recent case at the University of Delaware is a
According to a dossier
compiled by FIRE, incoming
freshman were required to undergo "treatment" (the
university's word) by residence hall apparatchiks, and
forced "to adopt highly specific university-approved views
on issues ranging from politics to race, sexuality,
sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism." These
young scholar-scamps in Wilmington are told solemnly that
they are, according to the precepts of the
university, carriers of racist original sin: "[A] racist is
one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of
race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term
applies to all white people (i.e., people of European
descent) living in the United States, regardless of class,
gender, religion, culture or sexuality." After pressure from
FIRE, the university dumped the program, reluctantly
releasing the little
Ivan Denisovichs, still tainted by
white skin privilege, into a vulnerable academic community.
university administrators persist in their attempts to
indoctrinate students is mystifying, says University of
Massachusetts at Amherst professor and FIRE board member
Daphne Patai. "What's amazing is that the universities
aren't smart enough—and don't care enough about the liberal
American tradition and respect for free speech—to, on their
own, wise up and not put students through" these programs,
It should be
noted that FIRE isn't, as some of its partisan critics
contend, a conservative organization or a legal cudgel for
the political right. Indeed, a look through its recent case
load shows that while the attempted silencing of
conservative viewpoints are overrepresented on campus, the
group has defended protesters and political activists on
both sides of the ideological divide.
. . .
warned of speech codes and the Zamyatin-like atmosphere
on campuses like UMass, my erstwhile comrades harrumphed
that fiddling with the Constitution was a necessary
evil, one that civil libertarians need accept in favor of a
more tolerant society. Alas, both predictions were correct.
Lewis's fears proved prescient, as the FIRE report
demonstrates. The radical activists have, in the short term,
been largely successful, presiding over a deeply unfortunate
shift in campus values.
there exist organizations such as FIRE who have assumed the
role of protector of the First Amendment on campus, forcing
universities, however incrementally, to roll back policies
that violate student's rights.
publication this year of U.S. News & World Report's first ranking of high
schools has parents in a twitter, worrying that their property taxes are too
high (or too low), or that public education has failed them entirely. But
leaving aside the merits and methodology of these particular rankings, we
might wonder whether rankings matter at all and, more importantly, if they
In fact, there
are some numbers that really matter. Getting them is the rub.
this problem, consider another set of rankings, released about the same time
as the high-school rankings, that didn't garner as much attention: bar-exam
passage rates. The school at which I teach -- New York Law School -- jumped
to fifth on the list of New York area law schools (with an all-time high
passage rate of 90%), while Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School at Yeshiva
University leapfrogged to third, behind only NYU and Columbia.
however, is ranked 52nd by U.S. News among all law schools (fourth in New
York), while New York Law School is ranked in the "third tier" of law
schools (along with Albany, Hofstra, Pace and Syracuse). So which ranking
On the one
hand, the U.S. News ranking would seem to be more comprehensive, because bar
passage rate is only one of many factors it considers. On the other hand,
what good is a law degree if a graduate can't practice because he doesn't
pass the licensing exam?
the bar exam measures a student's fitness to practice law (as the bar
examiners claim), a school's bar passage rate should be a pretty good
indication of how the school is doing in turning out graduates who know how
to practice law.
according to a paper commissioned by the Association of American Law
Schools, bar passage rate accounts for only 2% of a school's overall rank in
the U.S. News survey. This doesn't seem right.
there are other things that matter to law-school graduates -- like getting a
job. Although the U.S. News rankings purport to measure a school's success
at placing its graduates into gainful employment, the rankings do not
distinguish between success at placing students at high-paying corporate law
jobs versus low-paying paralegal-type jobs. Nor do they distinguish between
jobs that graduates want and the jobs that graduates get.
Students who assume that going to a more highly ranked school is more likely
to get them a good job are essentially being misled by lazy reporting.
The U.S. News
rankings are also heavily weighted toward reputation, which would seem to
have some real world significance. But again, "reputation" is misleading,
and often irrelevant. Beyond the top 20 or so law schools, law firms care
less about the ranking of a school when making hiring decision and more
about the ranking of the students at the schools.
different way, there are really two kinds of law schools: those at which
students decide where they want to interview, and those where firms decide.
The large majority of law schools belong to the latter group. Hiring
partners admit that they use GPA or other bright-line criteria (like law
review membership) to interview at Tier 2, 3, and 4 schools, while taking
resumes from nearly everyone at Tier 1 schools.
In short: The
difference between the 55th-ranked law school and the 105th law school is of
little significance in determining which students are more likely to get a
good job. At both schools, unless a student is in the top 15% or 20% of his
class, he has little chance of getting a high-paying job directly upon
graduation. Students might be better served by going to a lower-ranked law
school and doing better, rather than going to middling law school and not
doing as well.
parents are led astray by U.S. News because in putting a simple number on
something that is incredibly complex, they are missing the nuances that are
likely to be more important. But schools themselves -- high schools and law
schools -- are partly to blame, because they resist fully disclosing
Just as law
schools would better serve their constituencies by releasing accurate
information about numbers that matter -- bar results, jobs, and average
salaries -- high schools should make more of an effort to fully disclose
test scores, college admissions, class sizes and other important data. More
information may put some schools under a harsh light. But it will help
students and parents decide whether those high taxes and tuition rates are
worth it. The alternative is letting U.S. News decide for us.
Mr. Stracher is publisher
of the New York Law School Law Review and author of "Dinner with Dad: How I
Found My Way Back to the Family Table" (Random House, 2007).
Bob Jensen's threads on rankings controversies are at
What is Wikia Search?
"Wikipedia Founder Brings Search Project," by Anick Jesdanun, The
Washington Post, January 2, 2007 ---
The founder of Wikipedia says taking the online
encyclopedia's collaborative approach into the field of search won't
dethrone Google Inc. or another major search engine _ at least not soon.
After months of talk and a few weeks of
invitation-only testing, Wikia Search is to open to the general public next
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales says his goal is to
let volunteers improve search technology collectively, the way Wikipedia
lets anyone add or change entries, regardless of expertise.
"That reduces the sort of bottleneck of two or
three firms really controlling the flow of search traffic," said Wales,
chairman of Wikia Inc., the for-profit venture behind the search project.
Engineers at Google and other search companies
continually tweak their complex software algorithms to improve results and
fight spammers _ those who try to artificially boost the rankings of their
own sites. Search companies have not disclosed many details to avoid tipping
off competitors and spammers.
Wales' approach would open that process. Initially,
participants will help make such decisions as whether a site on "Paris
Hilton" refers to the celebrity or a French hotel.
Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of the industry Web
site Search Engine Land, has his doubts. Finding all the Web sites to index
and staying ahead of spammers are huge undertakings, Sullivan said.
"I think he doesn't really understand the scale of
what Google has to handle in terms of the queries from around the world and
the amount of traffic that flows to it and the attempts that are made to try
to manipulate it," Sullivan said.
Wales said the project would launch with about 50
million to 100 million Web pages indexed, a fraction of the billions
available with major search engines.
Even as Wales tries to challenge search, Google has
announced a project that could challenge Wikipedia. Google's version, called
knol, will differ from Wikipedia by identifying who wrote each article and
giving authors a chance to share in Google's advertising revenue.
Bob Jensen's threads on general education tutorials are at
Engineering, Science, and Medicine Tutorials
Bob Jensen's threads on free online science,
engineering, and medicine tutorials are at ---
Social Science and Economics Tutorials
Bob Jensen's threads on Economics, Anthropology, Social Sciences, and
Philosophy tutorials are at
Bob Jensen's threads on free online mathematics tutorials are at
Bob Jensen's threads on history tutorials are at
Bob Jensen's links to language tutorials are at
Bob Jensen's helpers for writers are at
Updates from WebMD ---
Why fish oil is good for you
It's good news that we are living longer, but bad news
that the longer we live, the better our odds of developing late-onset
Alzheimer's disease. Many Alzheimer's researchers have long touted fish oil, by
pill or diet, as an accessible and inexpensive "weapon" that may delay or
prevent this debilitating disease. Now, UCLA scientists have confirmed that fish
oil is indeed a deterrent against Alzheimer's, and they have identified the
reasons why. Reporting in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, now
online, Greg Cole, professor of medicine and neurology at the David Geffen
School of Medicine at UCLA and associate director of UCLA's Alzheimer Disease
Research Center, and his colleagues report that the omega-3 fatty acid
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) found in fish oil increases the production of LR11, a
protein that is found at reduced levels in Alzheimer's patients and which is
known to destroy the protein that forms the "plaques" associated with the
disease. The plaques are deposits of a protein called beta amyloid that is
thought to be toxic to neurons in the brain, leading to Alzheimer's. Since
having high levels of LR11 prevents the toxic plaques from being made, low
levels in patients are believed to be a factor in causing the disease.
PhysOrg, December 26, 2007 ---
Some types of temporary neurological problems associated with increased
risk for stroke, dementia
Patients who experience symptoms described as transient
neurological attacks, such as temporary amnesia or confusion, may have a higher
risk for stroke and dementia, according to a study in the December 26 issue of
JAMA. Transient neurological attacks (TNAs) are episodes involving temporary
(less than 24 hours) neurological symptoms. These symptoms can be nonfocal (that
can include nonlocalizing cerebral symptoms), focal (known as transient ischemic
attacks [TIAs], similar to ischemic stroke, except for duration [commonly 2-15
minutes, maximum 24 hours]), or a mixture of both focal and nonfocal. Although
it has been well-documented that patients with TIA are at high risk of major
vascular disease, few studies have examined whether nonfocal TNAs are a serious
health threat, according to background information in the article. Michiel J.
Bos, M.D., M.Sc., of Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and
colleagues studied the incidence and prognosis of focal, nonfocal and mixed TNAs.
The study included 6,062 participants who were age 55 years or older and free
from stroke, heart attack, and dementia when they entered the study (1990-1993),
and were followed-up until January 2005. During the study a TNA occurred in 548
participants; 282 of these were classified as focal, 228 as nonfocal, and 38 as
mixed. In both men and women, the incidence rates for nonfocal TNAs were almost
as frequent as focal TNAs, and for both types of events the incidence rates
strongly increased with increasing age. Mixed TNAs were less frequent.
PhysOrg, December 26, 2007 ---
Aspirin Limits Prostate Cancer Therapy
Daily Aspirin May Make Prostate Cancer Hormone
Treatment Intolerable. Men with prostate cancer may have to quit hormone therapy
-- upping their death risk -- if they take aspirin, a small study suggests.
Regular aspirin helps many men avoid heart attacks and stroke. But it also takes
a toll on the liver for some. That's not a problem for most men. But men with
prostate cancer often need hormone therapy to suppress the male hormones that
speed the growth of their cancers. The powerful drugs used to suppress male
hormones include the anti-androgen drug Eulexin. Eulexin can be toxic to the
liver. Doctors discontinue treatment if patients have abnormal liver-function
Daniel J. DeNoon, WebMD, December 29, 2007 ---
Top 10 Parenting Pitfalls
Experts offer advice that will help you raise a
well-behaved child -- instead of a brat.
Dulce Zamora WebMD, December 2007 ---
"Inside college parties: surprising findings about drinking behavior,"
PhysOrg, January 3, 2008 ---
“Most studies use survey methods that require
people to recall their drinking behavior – days, weeks or months prior – and
such recall is not always accurate,” noted J.D. Clapp, director of the
Center for Alcohol and Drug Studies and Services at San Diego State
University and corresponding author for the study.
“By going out into the field and doing observations
and surveys, including breath tests for alcohol concentrations, we were able
to mitigate many of the problems associated with recall of behavior and
“In addition,” said James A. Cranford, research
assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of
Michigan, “this study is unique in its focus on both individual- and
environmental-level predictors of alcohol involvement. Rather than relying
on students' reports of the environment, researchers actually gained access
to college-student parties and made detailed observations about the
characteristics of these parties.”
For three academic semesters, researchers conducted
a multi-level examination of 1,304 young adults (751 males, 553females) who
were attending 66 college parties in private residences located close to an
urban public university in southern California. Measures included
observations of party environments, self-administered questionnaires, and
collection of blood-alcohol concentrations (BrACs).
“Both individual behavior and the environment
matter when it comes to student-drinking behavior,” said Clapp. “At the
individual level, playing drinking games and having a history of binge
drinking predicted higher BrACs. At the environmental level, having a lot of
intoxicated people at a party and themed events predicted higher BrACs. One
of the more interesting findings was that young women drank more heavily
than males at themed events. It is rare to find any situation where women
drink more than men, and these events tended to have sexualized themes and
“Conversely,” added Cranford, “students who
attended parties in order to socialize had lower levels of drinking.
Interestingly, larger parties were associated with less drinking. Dr. Clapp
and colleagues speculate that there may simply be less alcohol available at
larger parties, and I suspect this may be the case.”
Both Clapp and Cranford hope this study’s design
will help future research look at “the whole picture.”
“From a methodological standpoint, our study
illustrates that is possible and important to examine drinking behavior in
real-world settings,” noted Clapp. “It is more difficult than doing web
surveys and the like, but provides a much richer data set. Secondly,
environmental factors are important. Much of the current research on
drinking behavior focuses on individual characteristics and ignores
contextual factors. Yet both are important to our understanding of drinking
behavior and problems.”
On a more practical level, Clapp urged caution on
the part of party hosts as well as guests. “Hosts should not allow drinking
games and students should avoid playing them,” he said. “Such games
typically result in large amounts of alcohol being consumed very quickly - a
dangerous combination.” He and his colleagues are currently testing
party-host interventions that may help, and also plan to further examine
themed parties in greater detail, other alcohol-related problems occurring
at all types of parties, and drinking in a bar environment.
For more on collegiate drinking behavior, go to
Scottish Doctor Recommends Sex Education at Age 5
Scotland's senior public health official recommended
sex education begin at age 5 to combat rising sexually transmitted disease and
teenage pregnancy rates. "It needs to start at quite an early age, because if
you leave it until they are 12 it is too late because some are already
experimenting. It probably needs to be started off when children start school,"
said Dr. Charles Saunders, chairman of the British Medical Association's
Scottish consultants' committee, Scotland on Sunday reported. "You need to start
laying the groundwork to help them and empower them to make decisions and turn
things down," Saunders said. Students should have access to contraception
starting at age 13, he said. Parents' groups gave the proposal tentative
approval, but the Catholic Church vowed to oppose it.
PhysOrg, December 31, 2007 ---
Simply advocating condoms can get you fired as the U.S. Surgeon General ---
I know a strong smell when I see it
Animals and insects communicate through an
invisible world of scents. By exploiting infrared technology, researchers at
Rockefeller University just made that world visible. With the ability to see
smells, these scientists now show that when fly larvae detect smells with both
olfactory organs they find their way toward a scented target more accurately
than when they detect them with one. “Having two eyes allows us to have depth
perception and two ears allows us to pinpoint a noise precisely,” says Leslie
Vosshall, head of the Laboratory of Neurogenetics and Behavior. “Sensing odors
in stereo is equally important.” In research to be published in the December 23
online issue of Nature Neuroscience, Vosshall and her colleagues show that odor
information is easier to perceive when it is smelled with both olfactory organs.
By genetically manipulating flies to express odorant receptors in one olfactory
organ or both, they show that the brains of Drosophila melanogaster larvae not
only make use of stereo cues to locate odors but also to navigate toward them —
a behavior called chemotaxis. To study this behavior, Vosshall and her
colleagues had to figure out which direction the larvae move with respect to the
source of the odor. But since odors are invisible, the researchers could neither
predict how the flies would move in relation to these scents nor guess whether
the odors were concentrated in patches or along a gradient. To complicate
matters, odors whisk to and fro at the mercy of the slightest stir, making it
impossible to determine their concentrations at particular locations.
"New method enables scientists to see smells," PhysOrg, December 24, 2007
December 26, 2007 message from a friend
School 1960 vs.
Scenario: Jack goes quail hunting before school, pulls into
school parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.
1960 - Vice principal comes over, looks at Jack's shotgun, goes
to his car and gets his own shotgun to show Jack.
2007 - School goes into lockdown, the FBI is called, Jack is
hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again.
Counselors are called in to assist traumatized students and
Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school
1960 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and
end up buddies.
2007 - Police are called, SWAT team arrives and arrests Johnny
and Mark. They are charged with assault and both are expelled
even though Johnny started it.
Scenario: Jeffrey won't sit still in class, disrupts other
1960 - Jeffrey is sent to the principal's office and given a
good paddling. Returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt
2007 - Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie.
Tested for ADD. School gets extra state funding because Jeffrey
has a disability.
Scenario: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his
Dad gives him a whipping on the backside.
1960 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to
college, and becomes a successful businessman.
2007 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is removed
to foster care and joins a gang. State psychologist tells
Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their
dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has an affair with the
Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some Aspirin to school
1960 - Mark shares Aspirin with the school principal out on the
2007 - Police are called and Mark is expelled from School for
drug violations. His car is searched for drugs and weapons.
Scenario: Pedro fails high-school English.
1960 - Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to
2007 - Pedro's cause is taken up by local human rights group.
Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that making
English a requirement for graduation is racist. US Civil
Liberties Association files class action lawsuit against state
school system and Pedro's English teacher. English is banned
from core curriculum. Pedro is given his diploma anyway but ends
up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.
Scenario: Johnny takes apart leftover Independence Day
firecrackers, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and
blows up an anthill.
1960 - Ants die.
2007 - Homeland Security and the FBI are called and Johnny is
charged with domestic terrorism. teams investigate parents,
siblings are removed from the home, computers are confiscated,
and Johnny's dad goes on a terror watch list and is never
allowed to fly again.
Scenario: Johnny falls during recess and scrapes his knee. His
teacher, Mary, finds him crying, and gives him a hug to comfort
1960 - Johnny soon feels better and goes back to playing.
2007 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her
job. She faces three years in federal prison. Johnny undergoes
five years of therapy.
December 27, 2007 reply from Bob Jensen
I suspect these are taken out of context and greatly exaggerated. A SWAT
team is probably called to school once per every million scuffles between
As much as I often disagree with the ACLU and its tactics, the ACLU is
not going to sue a school teacher because she hugged a hurt child unless the
touching itself was inappropriate.
Much of the trouble lies not with the ACLU and the NEA. The real problem
lies with school administration paranoia caused by our litigious society
(blame the lawyers). Indeed many schools have now banned all touching
between employees and employees and students. This is out of fear of
lawsuits. Indeed there is moral hazard in that parents and students may
actually bait teachers hoping to generate a lawsuit.
Actually so many people fail to appropriately wash hands that replacing
handshaking with bowing is probably not a bad idea.
What I find ironic is the new law in California regarding transgendering.
All a horny young boy has to do in California is declare that he’s
female-oriented (no surgery required). He can thereby use female locker
rooms and bathrooms. In other words he can stand naked in a state of arousal
while watching the girls undress as long as he does not try to shake hands with them.
The 1960s and the pill gave rise to free love. The 21st Century gave rise
to free peeks in locker rooms. Did I grow up in the wrong generation?
Actually I don’t think so!
Have a happy New Year!
Five Best Cold War Books
"Five Best: As the new year starts with a resurgent
Russia, author Ernest Lefever cites Cold War classics," The Wall Street Journal,
December 29, 2007; Page W8 ---
1. The Twenty Years' Crisis:
By E.H. Carr
Published in 1939 just before Hitler
invaded Poland, "The Twenty Years' Crisis: 1919-1939" was one of the first
modern books on world politics in the classic tradition of Thucydides and
Machiavelli. During the long weekend between the two world wars, says
British scholar E.H. Carr (1892-1982), there was in the English-speaking
world an almost "total neglect of the factor of power." Like Reinhold
Niebuhr, whom he often quotes, Carr believes that a balance of power among
states is the starting point in foreign policy but that morality is an
essential consideration. Utopian "superstructures such as the League of
Nations," he said, were not the answer. Carr's critics point to his early
pro-Nazi stance and his muddled thinking about communist Russia. He once
wrote that "the Russian Revolution gave me a sense of history" and it
"turned me into a historian." That said, this book remains a seminal work on
the realism that instructed U.S. and British Cold War statesmen.
2. Darkness at Noon
By Arthur Koestler
Born into a learned Jewish family in
Budapest, Arthur Koestler (1905-83) was educated in pre-Nazi Germany. He
became a Communist, served as a journalist in the Spanish Civil War and
later visited the Soviet Union -- experiences that led him to conclude that
both fascism and Marxism were evil political religions. Fluent in five
languages, he wrote the novel "Darkness at Noon," one of the 20th century's
most stirring anticommunist works, in English. He said that his characters
in "Darkness at Noon" were fictitious but that "their actions are real," a
composite of Stalin's "so-called Moscow Trials" and its victims, several of
whom he knew personally. This intimacy with real victims enabled Koestler to
make vivid the torture, brainwashing and forced confessions of uncommitted
crimes. With consummate skill he underscored the vital moral issues of the
Cold War, indeed of the human drama.
3. The Children of Light and the
Children of Darkness
By Reinhold Niebuhr
Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), born in
St. Louis of German parents, was the best-known American moral philosopher
of his time. Following his pioneering "Moral Man and Immoral Society" (1932)
and his monumental "Nature and Destiny of Man" (1942), this slim volume,
with its primer-like title, may seem like a trivial afterthought. But it is
a profound analysis of man and history, and of democracy, then under siege
by Hitler and Stalin. Calling his book "a vindication of democracy and a
critique of its traditional defense," Niebuhr argues that "man's capacity
for justice makes democracy possible; but man's inclination to injustice
makes democracy necessary."
4. The Super-Powers
By William T.R. Fox
William T.R. Fox (1912-88), a Yale
scholar, is generally credited with coining the word "superpower" with the
publication of this book. Writing even as World War II rages, he invokes
classic concepts such as the balance of power to explain the dynamics of the
coming postwar world. A morally sensitive realist, Fox castigates dreamers
like the Federal Council of Churches executive who in 1942 declared bluntly
that "alliances and balances of power . . . are destructive of world peace,"
and he disabused his readers of any thought that the nascent United Nations
would be able to maintain peace and order.
5. The True Believer
By Erich Hoffer
Harper & Row, 1951
Six years after Hiroshima, as the
Cold War was revving up, this slender volume by self-educated longshoreman
Eric Hoffer (1902-83) came off the presses to immediate acclaim. In
idiosyncratic prose, Hoffer offers his "thoughts on the nature of mass
movements," from early Christianity to the rise of modern totalitarian
states. He condemns with equal fervor Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia and
Western intellectuals seduced by their own guilt-ridden longings for utopia.
Throughout his days as a blue-collar worker, Hoffer said, he "read
indiscriminately everything within reach," and he quotes just as freely,
from the Bible, Milton, Dostoevsky, Tocqueville, Thomas a Kempis and Yeats.
Hoffer, an unabashed American patriot, championed honesty, integrity and the
Mr. Lefever, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public
Policy Center, is the author of "The Irony of Virtue: Ethics and American
Power" (1998) and "America's Imperial Burden" (1999).
"Conservatives vs. Liberals: For those that don't know much about
history," Yahoo Message Boards, December 23, 2007 ---
Humans originally existed as members of small bands
of nomadic hunters/gatherers. They lived on deer in the mountains during the
summer and would go to the coast and live on fish and lobster in the winter.
The two most important events in all of history
were the invention of beer and the invention of the wheel. The wheel was
invented to get man to the beer. These were the foundation of modern
civilization and together were the catalyst for the splitting of humanity
into two distinct subgroups:
Once beer was discovered, it required grain and
that was the beginning of agriculture. Neither the glass bottle nor aluminum
can were invented yet, so while our early humans were sitting around waiting
for them to be invented, they just stayed close to the brewery.
That's how villages were formed.
Some men spent their days tracking and killing
animals to B-B-Q at night while they were drinking beer. This was the
beginning of what is known as the Conservative movement.
Other men who were weaker and less skilled at
hunting learned to live off the conservatives by showing up for the nightly
B-B-Q's and doing the sewing, fetching, and hair dressing. This was the
beginning of the Liberal movement.
Some of these liberal men eventually evolved into
women. The rest became known as girlie-men or wussies. Some noteworthy
liberal achievements include the domestication of cats, the invention of
group therapy, group hugs, and the concept of voting to decide how to divide
the meat and beer that conservatives provided.
Over the years Conservatives came to be symbolized
by the largest, most powerful land animal on earth; the elephant.
Liberals are symbolized by the jackass.
A few modern liberals like Mexican light beer (with
lime added), but most prefer a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc,with passion
fruit and kiwi aromas which are marked by grassy notes, then rounded out on
the midpalate by peach flavors. Crisp and refreshing, with a hint of chalky
minerality on the finish; or Perrier bottled water. They eat raw fish but
dislike beef. Sushi, tofu, and French food are standard liberal fare.
Another interesting evolutionary side note: most of
their women have higher testosterone levels than their men. Most social
workers, personal injury attorneys, Ivy League professors, journalists,
dreamers in Hollywood and group therapists are liberals. Liberals invented
the designated-hitter rule because it wasn't fair to make the pitcher also
Conservatives drink Sam Adams, Harpoon IPA or
Yuengling Lager. They eat red meat and still provide for their women.
Conservatives are big-game hunters, rodeo cowboys, lumberjacks, con
struction workers, firemen, medical doctors, police officers, corporate
executives, athletes, Marines, and generally anyone who works productively.
Conservatives who own companies hire other
conservatives who want to work for a living.
Liberals produce little or nothing. They like to
govern the producers and decide what to do with the production. Liberals
believe Europeans are more enlightened than Americans. That is why most of
the liberals remained in Europe when conservatives were coming to America .
They crept in after the Wild West was tamed and created a business of trying
to get more for nothing.
Here ends today's lesson in world history: It
should be noted that a Liberal may have a momentary urge to angrily respond
to the above before forwarding it. A Conservative will simply laugh and be
so convinced of the absolute truth of this history that it will be forwarded
immediately to other true believers and to more liberals just to piss them
Sierra Vista Mall
From Stetson University
Math Humor (some may seem insensitive) ---
The year is 1907. One hundred years ago. What a difference a
Here are some statistics for the Year 1907 :
************ ********* ********* ******
The average life expectancy was 47 years.
Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.
Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.
There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads.
The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower!
The average wage in 1907 was 22 cents per hour.
The average worker made between $200 and $400 per year .
A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, A dentist $2,500
per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical
engineer about $5,000 per year.
More than 95 percent of all births took place at HOME .
Ninety percent of all doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION! Instead, they attended
so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND
the government as "substandard. "
Sugar cost four cents a pound.
Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.
Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.
Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used
Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from entering into their country
for any reason.
Five leading causes of death were:
1. Pneumonia and influenza 2. Tuberculosis 3. Diarrhea 4. Heart disease 5.
The American flag had 45 stars.
The population of Las Vegas , Nevada, was only 30!!!!
Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and ice tea hadn't been invented yet.
There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.
Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write.
Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.
Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the
local corner drugstores. Back then pharmacists said, "Heroin clears the
complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and
is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health." ( Shocking? DUH! )
Eighteen percent of U.S. households had at least one full-time servant or
There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE ! U.S.A. !
Now I forwarded this from someone else without typing it myself, and sent it to
you and others all over Canada & U.S.A
Possibly the world, in a matter of seconds!
Try to imagine what it may be like in another 100 years.
Will it be for the better? I think I prefer graduating from high school in 1956
rather than 2056! People 100 years old probably prefer being born in 1907.
Forwarded by Dick Haar
Only in America ......do drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the
back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy
cigarettes at the front.
Only in America .......do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and
a diet coke.
Only in America ......do banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens
to the counters.
Only in America ......do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the
driveway and put our useless junk in the garage.
Only in America ......do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in
packages of eight.
Only in America ......do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille
EVER WONDER ....
Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin ?
Why women can't put on mascara with their mouth closed?
Why don't you ever see the headline "Psychic Wins Lottery"?
Why is "abbreviated" such a long word?
Why is it that doctors call what they do "practice"?
Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor, and dishwashing liquid made
with real lemons?
Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?
Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?
Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?
Why didn't Noah swat those two mosquitoes?
Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?
You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes? Why don't
they make the whole plane out of that stuff?!
Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?
Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?
If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?
Grandma's Washday Poem ---
Forwarded by Paula
(On September 17, 1994, Alabama's Heather Whitestone was selected as Miss
Question: If you could live forever, would you and why?
Answer: "I would not live forever, because we should not live forever,
because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we
cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever," --
Miss Alabama in the 1994 Miss USA contest .
"Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I
can't help but cry. I mean I'd love to be skinny like that, but not with all
those flies and death and stuff." --
"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your
Brooke Shields, during an interview to become Spokesperson for federal
anti-smoking campaign .
"I've never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body," --
Winston Bennett, University? of Kentucky basketball forward .
"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the
Mayor Marion Barry, Washington, DC .
"I'm not going to have some reporters pawing through our papers. We are the
Hillary Clinton commenting on the release of subpoenaed documents.
"That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jackass, and I'm
just the one to do it," --A congressional candidate in Texas .
"Half this game is ninety percent mental." --Philadelphia Phillies manager,
"It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in
our air and water that are doing it." --
Al Gore, Vice President
"We are ready for an unforeseen event that may or may not occur." -- Al Gore,
"I love California . I practically grew up in Phoenix ." --
"We've got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need ?" --
"The word "genius" isn't applicable in football. A genius is a guy like
Norman Einstein." ---
Joe Theisman, NFL football quarterback & sports analyst.
"We don't necessarily discriminate. We simply exclude certain types of
Colonel Gerald Wellman, ROTC Instrutor .
"If we don't succeed, we run the risk of failure." --
Bill Clinton, President
"Traditionally, most of Australia 's imports come from overseas." --
"Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received
notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a
change in your circumstances." --
Department of Social Services, Greenville , South Carolina
"If somebody has a bad heart, they can plug this jack in at night as they go
to bed and it will monitor their heart throughout the night. And the next
morning, when they wake up dead, there'll be a record." --
Mark S. Fowler, FCC Chairman
Forwarded by Paula
newspaper editors state the obvious
If strike isn't settled quickly it may
last a while
War dims hope for peace
Smokers are productive, but death cuts
Cold wave linked to temperatures
Child's death ruins couple's holiday
Blind woman gets new kidney from dad she
hasn't seen in years
Man is fatally slain
Something went wrong in jet crash, experts
Death causes loneliness, feeling of
botches other headlines
Squad helps dog bite victim
Dealers will hear car talk at
Enraged cow injures farmer with ax
Lawmen from Mexico barbecue
Miners refuse to work after death
Two sisters reunite after eighteen years
at checkout counter
Queen Mary having bottom scraped
Prostitutes appeal to Pope
Panda mating fails - veterinarian takes
NJ judge to rule on nude beach
Dr. Ruth to talk about sex with newspaper
Humor Between December 1 and December 31, 2007 ---
Humor Between November 1 and November 30, 2007 ---
Humor Between October 1 and October 31, 2007 ---
Humor Between September 1 and September 30, 2007 ---
Tidbits Archives ---
Click here to search Bob Jensen's web site if you have key words to enter ---
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
World Clock ---
Facts about the earth in real time --- http://www.worldometers.info/
Interesting Online Clock
Time by Time Zones ---
Projected Population Growth (it's out of control) ---
Facts about population growth (video) ---
Projected U.S. Population Growth ---
Real time meter of the U.S. cost of the war in Iraq ---
Enter you zip code to get Census Bureau comparisons ---
Sure wish there'd be a little good news today.
Three Finance Blogs
Jim Mahar's FinanceProfessor Blog ---
FinancialRounds Blog ---
Karen Alpert's FinancialMusings (Australia) ---
Some Accounting Blogs
Paul Pacter's IAS Plus (International
International Association of Accountants News ---
AccountingEducation.com and Double Entries ---
Gerald Trite's eBusiness and
XBRL Blogs ---
Bob Jensen's Sort-of Blogs ---
Current and past editions of my newsletter called New
Current and past editions of my newsletter called
Current and past editions of my newsletter called Fraud
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 ---
Shared Open Courseware
(OCW) from Around the World: OKI, MIT, Rice, Berkeley, Yale, and Other Sharing
Free Textbooks and Cases ---
Free Mathematics and Statistics Tutorials ---
Free Science and Medicine Tutorials ---
Free Social Science and Philosophy Tutorials ---
Free Education Discipline Tutorials ---
Teaching Materials (especially
video) from PBS
Teacher Source: Arts and
Teacher Source: Health & Fitness
Teacher Source: Math ---
Teacher Source: Science ---
Teacher Source: PreK2 ---
Teacher Source: Library Media ---
Free Education and
Research Videos from Harvard University ---
VYOM eBooks Directory ---
From Princeton Online
The Incredible Art Department ---
Online Mathematics Textbooks ---
National Library of Virtual Manipulatives ---
The word moodle is an acronym for "modular
object-oriented dynamic learning environment", which is quite a mouthful.
The Scout Report stated the following about Moodle 1.7. It is a
tremendously helpful opens-source e-learning platform. With Moodle,
educators can create a wide range of online courses with features that
include forums, quizzes, blogs, wikis, chat rooms, and surveys. On the
Moodle website, visitors can also learn about other features and read about
recent updates to the program. This application is compatible with computers
running Windows 98 and newer or Mac OS X and newer.
Some of Bob Jensen's Tutorials
Accountancy Discussion ListServs:
For an elaboration on the reasons you should join a
ListServ (usually for free) go to http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ListServRoles.htm
AECM is an email Listserv list which
provides a forum for discussions of all hardware and software
which can be useful in any way for accounting education at the
college/university level. Hardware includes all platforms and
peripherals. Software includes spreadsheets, practice sets,
multimedia authoring and presentation packages, data base
programs, tax packages, World Wide Web applications, etc
Roles of a ListServ ---
CPAS-L provides a forum for discussions of
all aspects of the practice of accounting. It provides an
unmoderated environment where issues, questions, comments,
ideas, etc. related to accounting can be freely discussed.
Members are welcome to take an active role by posting to CPAS-L
or an inactive role by just monitoring the list. You qualify for
a free subscription if you are either a CPA or a professional
accountant in public accounting, private industry, government or
education. Others will be denied access.
This forum is for CPAs to discuss the activities of the AICPA.
This can be anything from the CPA2BIZ portal to the XYZ
initiative or anything else that relates to the AICPA.
This site hosts various discussion groups on such topics as
accounting software, consulting, financial planning, fixed
assets, payroll, human resources, profit on the Internet, and
This discussion group is headed by Randy Schostag
Professor Robert E. Jensen (Bob)
190 Sunset Hill Road
Sugar Hill, NH 03586