Tidbits Quotations on February 1, 2010
To Accompany the February 1, 2010 edition of Tidbits
Bob Jensen at Trinity University



How Can We Help Haiti --- http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2010/01/15/fitzsimmons

Emergency Fund for Students From Haiti --- http://www.iie.org//Content/NavigationMenu/Programs7/Haiti-EAS/Haiti-EAS.htm

"Jared Diamond Explains Haiti’s Enduring Poverty," Open Culture, January 21, 2010 ---
Available on MP3

Video of Detroit in Ruins --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hhJ_49leBw

Huffington Post State of the Union Address Drinking Game --- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/26/state-of-the-union-drinki_n_436932.html

And for More Laughs at the Party
Video:  Jon Stewart Mocks Olbermann (hilarious) ---
Olbermann reduced to name calling.

574 Shields Against Validity Challenges in Plato's Cave ---


 "Obama's Budget Freeze and America's Economic Decline," by Umhair Hague, Harvard Business Review Blog, January 27, 2010 ---

A budget freeze in the middle of a (curiously depression-like) recession? That's about as smart an idea, economically speaking, as gulping down a bucketful of magma just because you're thirsty. It's even worse than Hoovernomics, because we have, today, the benefit of hindsight.

And though it's probably just PR shadowboxing, a "spending freeze" is actually perfect illustration of the big problem with Obama's economic policy. So far, it has accelerated — instead of decelerated — three transfers of wealth:

A transfer of wealth from Main Street to Wall Street. As Robert Reich has noted, the freeze disproportionately hurts Main Street. Wall Street got bailed out — and a spending freeze, now, is just another way of saying Main Street has to pay for it. In my last post, I referred to it as a War on the American Dream.

A transfer of wealth from young to old. America's debt wasn't racked up just last year, but over several decades. Its burden will fall disproportionately on tomorrow's citizens. (That's what my Generation M Manifesto was really about.)

A transfer of wealth from human people to corporate "people." America's debt, in a very real sense, is a consequence of corporations evading their responsibilities as citizens, and failing to provide services that matter. If we had a working healthcare industry, for example, healthcare might not have to be so heavily subsidized. Instead, pharma players have booked huge profits for decades, while America's racked up debt to essentially pay for it. (Connect the dots: one of the biggest components of the deficit is healthcare costs; healthcare costs so much, in part, because drugs are sold at significantly higher prices to Americans than abroad; higher drug prices yield nice margins for pharma players.) Today, it's real people who carry corporate people on their shoulders — not vice versa.

Let me put it as simply as I can: These are fatal vectors.

Economies that transfer wealth in these directions cannot survive — let alone prosper. Their resource bases, productive bases, knowledge bases, skills bases all implode. And the very fabric of trust that binds all of the above frays and disintegrates.

The problem we face isn't the problem we think we face. America's looming debt crisis is the consequence, not the cause. What are the root causes of America's addiction to debt?

The root cause is what I've been calling dumb growth: short-term, consumption-driven, polluting, economically meaningless growth. Think Hummers, Big Macs, and McMansions. America doesn't make products and services of earth-shaking, awesome value — it consumes stuff. So much stuff that we failed to adequately build yesterday's industries — which is why they needed bailing out. And today, we're bailing them out, instead of building tomorrow's industries. Worse, the stuff we so ravenously hyperconsume is traded on an uneven playing field. We're eating the future.

The way to close the gap between what we spend and what we earn isn't to stop investing in tomorrow — a spending freeze. That's a recipe for economic implosion.

The answer is a smarter kind of growth. Here are its four pillars. Smart growth reverses the fatal vectors above. When economies set the stage for smart growth, wealth isn't just transferred — unfairly and self-destructively. It is created anew. That's the key to an authentic, shared prosperity — not just the illusion of one.

Fire away in the comments with thoughts, questions, etc.


"Geithner's AIG Bailout," by Greg Kaughmann, The Nation, January 29, 2010 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on the Bankster Bailout --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/2008Bailout.htm#BailoutStupidity

The Zero-Tuition Online University of the People (now working on gaining accreditation) --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_the_People

"Tuition-Free University Gains a Following:  A year since its formation, the online University of the People has attracted several hundred students, a team of top academic advisers, and growing support worldwide," by Alison Damast, Business Week, January 21, 2010 ---

One of the higher education world's boldest experiments began in September when 180 students from nearly 50 countries around the world logged on to their computers for their first day of school at the University of the People. At first glance, the school has many of the trappings of a modern university: a provost, department heads, even an admissions committee. Yet there are glaring differences—namely, a the lack of a campus or physical classroom and just a handful of paid staff—that set it apart from its bricks-and-mortar counterparts.

Those are shortcomings the students, most of them from developing countries and without the means to pay for college, are willing to overlook, says Shai Reshef, an Israeli entrepreneur and founder of the school, the world's first global tuition-free online university.

"Education has become so expensive that not that many people can afford it, and in some parts of the world it just doesn't exist or there isn't a big enough supply," says Reshef, who has more than two decades' experience with Internet-based educational ventures and is chairman of Cramster.com, an online study community. "This is exactly why the Internet was invented. I thought: What can be done better with the Internet than helping people get an online education for free?"

Backed by the U.N. It was just about a year ago that Reshef made headlines in the distance learning community with his announcement that he intended to start an online college program using open-source software that would be free to students all over the world, one of just a handful of tuition-free universities. The nonprofit venture, which he named University of the People, attracted attention not only because of its tuition-free mission but also because it had the backing of the U.N., a leadership team made up of academics from top educational institutions like Columbia University and New York University, and an innovative approach to distance education, with an emphasis on peer-to-peer learning.

Today, the online university is fully operational, with 300 students, a growing array of course offerings, and even a recently announced research partnership with Yale University. The school is tapping into a growing market: Nonprofit institutions account for 68% of the more the more than 2 million students enrolled in online education, according to the latest estimates from Eduventures, a higher education consulting firm.

There are still many trials ahead for the fledgling university, which is struggling to make inroads in the competitive online global education market. To stay afloat, the school will need to raise several million dollars in startup costs this year and introduce new admission and application testing fees, which could pose difficulties for students from developing countries. But perhaps its greatest challenge—and the one its success will hinge on—will be gaining accreditation, a step toward the school's goal of conferring bachelor's degrees to students. This would also allow the school to carve out a niche as a major player in a space that has so far been primarily dominated by schools like the for-profit Apollo Group's (APOL) University of Phoenix and Washington Post Co.'s (WPO) Kaplan University, both of which have broad online degree offerings, says Roger C. Schonfeld, the manager of research at ITHAKA S+R, a higher education strategy and research organization.

Business and Computer Science "What the University of the People is offering to do is make education time- and space-neutral. They have a lot of ingredients there to be successful, and they certainly have quite a few superstars on their advisory board," Schonfeld says. Among them: a former dean at INSEAD and the current U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh. "I think that their success from a business perspective may turn on their ability to become accredited," Schonfeld notes. "With accreditation, they have a good chance of an innovative model that might see some success."

For now, the school's academic offerings are limited. Students can pursue an associate's-degree or bachelor's-degree track in business or a bachelor's track in computer science. Those subject areas were chosen because they are professions that "are in high demand and areas where students will most likely be able to find a job," Reshef says. (A notice on the school's Web site reads: "These programs may in the future lead towards undergraduate degrees. However, no degrees will be granted until the university obtains proper authorization from relevant authorities.")

Obtaining accreditation is a top priority for the school, says Reshef, noting that the school is incorporated in Pasadena, Calif., making it easier for the school to work with American accreditation agencies. "We intend to apply for accreditation as soon as we can," Reshef says, though he declined to specify which accreditation body the school planned to work with.

The school's unaccredited status does not appear to be a stumbling block for students like Deema Sultan, 27, who lives in Syria and was among the first cohort of students to matriculate at the University of the People this fall. She came across the school through a news story run on a Syrian Web site last summer and immediately became intrigued. "I thought, "Oh, this is a great idea, but I doubt it is true,"" says Sultan.

Her doubts were assuaged when she found the school's Web site and saw that she met the eligibility requirements. Now in her second semester, she is pursuing a business administration track. When not in school, she helps run her family's textile business. She hopes her education will help the business grow and help her become a more astute entrepreneur.

"This is a great opportunity for me because, even though I'm working, I could not afford to study in Syria or the U.S.," says Sultan, who takes classes from a computer in her parent's home or at Internet cafés, when the family's connection is down. "I'm very impressed by it so far and the level of education they are offering. I've been telling my friends all about it."

The University of the People has not launched an official marketing campaign, but word appears to be spreading quickly. In its first two semesters, the school received 3,000 applications from all over the world, the school says. Students enrolled in the current class range in age from 18 to 63; the vast majority have opted for the business program. To gain admission, students have to submit a high school diploma, have Internet access, be proficient in English, and be able to pass two mandatory courses in English and computer skills. The school has so far attracted students from 70 countries, including Afghanistan, Thailand, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Zambia, and expects to enroll several hundred more students when its third semester begins in February, Reshef says.

Peer-to-Peer Learning Admitted students are placed in a class of 15 to 20 of their peers and given access to free online materials and social networking tools. There are five semesters throughout the school year, each lasting 10 weeks. The school is using Moodle, an open sourceware e-learning software platform, to deliver lectures, reading material, homework assignments, and tests to students, who work together in groups.

Every class is overseen by an instructor, but the school's educational model is based on peer-to-peer learning, meaning that students are expected to learn by interacting with their peers, posting and responding to questions on lessons and reading in their online classrooms. If students can't find the answer to a question through their classmates, they can reach out for help to an online volunteer community of university professors, graduate students, retired academics, and computer specialists.

The model appears to be working, the school says. A survey of students conducted in November by the school indicated that 90% of the class was satisfied with the classroom experience and would definitely or likely recommend the school to peers and family.

Continued in article


University of the People --- http://www.uopeople.org/

Course Catalogs --- http://www.uopeople.org/ACADEMICS/CourseCatalog/tabid/197/Default.aspx

Bob Jensen's threads on online training and education alternatives ---

"Notre Dame OpenCourseWare: Border Issues Seminar [US-Mexico Border] ---

Bob Jensen's threads on open courseware are at

"Obama Administration Steers Lucrative No-Bid Contract for Afghan Work to Dem Donor," Free Republic, January 25, 2010 ---

Despite President Obama's long history of criticizing the Bush administration for "sweetheart deals" with favored contractors, the Obama administration this month awarded a $25 million federal contract for work in Afghanistan to a company owned by a Democratic campaign contributor without entertaining competitive bids, Fox News has learned. The contract, awarded on Jan. 4 to Checchi & Company Consulting, Inc., a Washington-based firm owned by economist and Democratic donor Vincent V. Checchi, will pay the firm $24,673,427 to provide "rule of law stabilization services" in war-torn Afghanistan.

Yeah Right! Scott Brown's Nae Vote is Really Going to Help Pass Obamacare
Obama Administration is in Denial

We are getting into real mental health issues here. Robert Gibbs is on Fox News Sunday, "explaining" what the Brown win in MA means. Gibbs stated forcefully that last week Brown was elected not because of anger at Obama's policies, but because voters were angry at George Bush and because Obama hasn't moved forcefully and quickly enough in implementing Obamacare.
"Gibbs: Brown win in MA means that the voters really want Obama's policies," Free Republic, January 24, 2010 ---

The Washington Post  retracts support for Obama's treatment of Christmas Bomber as a criminal case, by Scott Johnson, Powerline, January 24, 2010  ---

The Washington Post supported the Obama administration's treatment of Christmas day bomber Umar Abdulmuttalab as a criminal rather than as an enemy combatant. In an editorial published yesterday, It has nevertheless retracted its support. The Post writes that it "originally supported the administration's decision in the Abdulmutallab case, assuming that it had been made after due consideration. But the decision to try Mr. Abdulmutallab turns out to have resulted not from a deliberative process but as a knee-jerk default to a crime-and-punishment model."

The Obama administration's treatment of Abdulmutallab as a criminal accorded the constitutional rights of an American citizen is absurd and indefensible. Yet the administration persists in it.

It is highly unusual to see a prominent newspaper editorial board publicly change its mind. The stated ground for the Post's original editorial position is lame. It criticizes the decision on procedural grounds. Is the Post incapable of judging its substance?

A defective decision making process is more likely to have resulted in a defective decision, but who cares what process the Obama administration used to come to the wrong decision? The administration is full of world-class liberal chin pullers who would come to the same decision if they had taken more time to think about it. They are simply on the wrong track.

Yesterday's Post editorial also concludes on a lame note. The Post can't quite bring itself to the conclusion that the Obama administration's treatment of Abdulmutallab as a criminal is in fact a mistake. Maybe, maybe not. It professes to have an open mind on that question.

It notes, on the one hand: "The administration claims Mr. Abdulmutallab provided valuable information -- and probably exhausted his knowledge of al-Qaeda operations -- before he clammed up. This was immediately after he was read his Miranda rights and provided with a court-appointed lawyer."

That sounds bad. Abdulmutallab was singing like a bird until the FBI read him a Miranda warning. Reasonable people would conclude that he stopped singing because of the warning.

But here the Post injects a note of epistemological uncertainty befitting a college philosophy class. The Post asserts, on the other hand: "The truth is, we may never know whether the administration made the right call or whether it squandered a valuable opportunity." The truth is, we may never know this only if we are prohibited from employing the most basic common sense to assess the situation.

More importantly, however, the administration's decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal is mistaken on its face. It cannot be defended on the merits in principle and the administration has not chosen to do so. It is an obvious mistake that can be rectified -- the administration can dismiss the criminal proceedings and remit Abdulmutallab to the custody of the armed forces as an enemy combatant -- but it would be helpful to have reasonable administration allies like the Post editorial board say that it should do so forthrightly.

If the administration now chose to treat Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant, he might well remain "clammed up." At that point we would have a good case in which to debate the folly of the administration's abandonment of the CIA's enhanced interrogation program.

"A Glacier Meltdown:  The Himalayas and climate science," The Wall Street Journal, January 23, 2010 ---

Last November, U.N. climate chief Rajendra Pachauri delivered a blistering rebuke to India's environment minister for casting doubt on the notion that global warming was causing the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers.

"We have a very clear idea of what is happening," the chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) told the Guardian newspaper. "I don't know why the minister is supporting this unsubstantiated research. It is an extremely arrogant statement."

Then again, when it comes to unsubstantiated research it's hard to beat the IPCC, whose 2007 report insisted that the glaciers—which feed the rivers that in turn feed much of South Asia—were very likely to nearly disappear by the year 2035. "The receding and thinning of Himalayan glaciers," it wrote in its supposedly definitive report, "can be attributed primarily to the [sic] global warming due to increase in anthropogenic emission of greenhouse gases."

It turns out that this widely publicized prediction was taken from a 2005 report from the World Wildlife Fund, which based it on a comment by Indian glacier expert Syed Hasnain from 1999. Mr. Hasnian now says he was "misquoted." Even more interesting is that the IPCC was warned in 2006 by leading glaciologist Georg Kaser that the 2035 forecast was baseless. "This number is not just a little bit wrong, but far out of any order of magnitude," Mr. Kaser told the Agence France-Presse. "It is so wrong that it is not even worth discussing."

On Wednesday, the IPCC got around to acknowledging that the claim was "poorly substantiated," though Mr. Pachauri also suggested it amounted to little more than a scientific typo. Yet the error is of a piece with other glib, and now debunked, global warming alarms.

Among them: that 1998 was the warmest year on record in the United States (it was 1934); that sea levels could soon rise by up to 20 feet and put Florida underwater (an 18-inch rise by the year 2100 is the more authoritative estimate); that polar bears are critically endangered by global warming (most polar bear populations appear to be stable or increasing); that—well, we could go on without even mentioning the climategate emails.

For the record, most Himalayan glaciers do seem to be retreating, and they have been "since the earliest recordings began around the middle of the nineteenth century," according to a report from India's ministry of environment and forests. The reasons are complex and still poorly understood, and we're glad to see responsible scientists acknowledge as much. If more of them could help the IPCC get its facts straight, we might put more stock in its reports.

"MIT economist finds temporary jobs may actually reduce workers' income and employment prospects," by Christine Daniloff, PhysOrg, January 20, 2010 --- http://www.physorg.com/news183385347.html

While the U.S. economy struggles, one form of employment is on the rise: Temporary jobs. In December, the country lost 85,000 jobs overall, but added 47,000 temp positions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Increasingly America relies on these contingent employees -- or “disposable workers,” as Business Week put it in a recent cover story.

For many workers, these are stop-gap measures, but social scientists have long floated another idea: That temp positions help low-skill workers to acquire experience and eventually join the permanent workforce in better long-term jobs. Now, a new working paper co-authored by MIT economist David Autor throws cold water on that notion. Not only do many temp employees struggle to find long-term or “direct-hire” work, the study says, but holding a temp job generally lowers a worker’s employment and income prospects over time.

“Temp jobs have some initial positive impact,” says Autor. “But not only do they end quickly, they tend to displace what a person would have done instead, either taking a direct-hire job or engaging in the kind of search that could lead to a direct-hire job.”

Autor and his co-author, Susan Houseman of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, Mich., came to this conclusion after examining a welfare-to-work program in Detroit called Work First. The program offers some job-seeking training and attempts to put people in either temporary or long-term positions. Using Work First data for over 37,000 cases from 1999 to 2003, combined with state employment information, Autor and Houseman examined how workers fared in the two years before and after they participated in Work First.

Their findings showed that workers placed into direct-hire jobs increased their earnings by about $2,000 per year, compared to their earnings before trying the Work First program. By contrast, workers initially placed into temp jobs saw their earnings lowered by about $1,000 per year, compared to their previous average .

The study, “Do Temporary-Help Jobs Improve Labor Market Outcomes for Low-Skilled Workers? Evidence from ‘Work First,’” (PDF) which will be published in the American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, has clear policy implications. “Work First as a model is not a bad idea, but I think these programs should be more focused on getting people into direct-hire positions,” says Autor. “In terms of what state agencies should be spending their money on, it should not be temporary-help placements, at least for this part of the population.”

Workplace experiment

The study’s surprising results have already gained notice among labor researchers, who have often assumed a solid correlation between temp employment and better job prospects. “I would have expected them to find a positive result, but they didn’t,” says Mary Corcoran, a professor of political science, public policy, social work, and women's studies at the University of Michigan, who is conducting her own study of temporary employment in Michigan. Corcoran thinks the Autor-Houseman paper is “one of the best pieces out there on the effects of using temp agencies, because it’s more like an experiment than other studies.”

Indeed, the study uses a key feature of Work First to create what economists call a “quasi-experiment” — research that uses a random element found in data to duplicate the structure of a laboratory trial. In general, it is hard to separate the employment status of people from their skills and motivation; temp workers might have temp jobs because they are less predisposed to have long-term jobs. But in Detroit, Work First arbitrarily rotated job-seekers through different job-placement contractors which themselves had varying tendencies in terms of placing workers in temp positions or long-term jobs. Because each group of job-hunters assigned to each job placement contractor was essentially identical, Autor and Houseman could rule out differences in workers as the primary explanation of differences in workers trajectories; in this case, even some workers who were highly motivated to find full-time work started out in temp jobs.

To be sure, a valid question is how broadly these findings apply, given Michigan’s acute economic struggles. However, as Autor notes, the study’s data starts when the state economy was growing in the late 1990s, then continues through the slump of the early 2000s and the subsequent rebound; it ends before the current recession began.

Moreover, Autor and Houseman believe there is no regional bias in the study because the overall figures for people finding both temporary and long-term jobs through Work First in Detroit closely match the equivalent data for other regions, including North Carolina and Missouri. The researchers also say temp workers fared no differently in the production-line jobs associated with Michigan than in the kinds of clerical jobs found everywhere.

“I don’t think it’s anything specific about Detroit, or the type of work in which temps are placed,” says Autor. “In terms of the external validity of the conclusions, my main concern is how this relates to a more skilled population. There we don’t have a clear answer yet.” It is possible that temp jobs for people with college degrees do lead to greater opportunities and earnings — something the researchers would study if the right data set presents itself, Autor says. Given the way America’s temporary workforce keeps growing, there may be plenty of those numbers for Autor to scrutinize in the future.

Continued in article


"One quarter of US grain crops fed to cars - not people, new figures showNew analysis of 2009 US Department of Agriculture figures suggests biofuel revolution is impacting on world food supplies," The Guardian, January 22, 2010 ---

One-quarter of all the maize and other grain crops grown in the US now ends up as biofuel in cars rather than being used to feed people, according to new analysis which suggests that the biofuel revolution launched by former President George Bush in 2007 is impacting on world food supplies. The 2009 figures from the US Department of Agriculture shows ethanol production rising to record levels driven by farm subsidies and laws which require vehicles to use increasing amounts of biofuels.


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

Return to the Tidbits Archives ---


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

Shielding Against Validity Challenges in Plato's Cave  --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/TheoryTAR.htm
By Bob Jensen

Table of Contents


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

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


Bob Jensen's threads on accounting theory ---

Tom Lehrer on Mathematical Models and Statistics ---

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

Bob Jensen's economic crisis messaging http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/2008Bailout.htm

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

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