Tidbits on January 24, 2012
Bob Jensen at Trinity University

In this edition of of Tidbits the following pictures are featured:
The Seasonal Life Cycle of Bob Jensen's Impatiens
Part 1:  April-June

Patience is golden; Duct tape is silver.
As quoted in a recent email from Rick Newmark
Think about this one until you get the point.
Erika instantly thought of me and where I keep huge roles of duct tape in the basement and in the barn.

More of Bob Jensen's Pictures and Stories

Blogs of White Mountain Hikers (many great photographs) ---

Especially note the archive of John Compton's blogs at the bottom of the page at

White Mountain News --- http://www.whitemtnews.com/

Blast from the Past With Hal and Rosie Wyman ---


Tidbits on January 24, 2012
Bob Jensen

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

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

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

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

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

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

A CBS Sixty Minutes module on January 15, 2012
What's the difference between a prodigy and an autistic genius"
Here's an autistic genius who will commence a PhD program in mathematics/science at Age 14
Jake's Memory put to the Test ---

Inspiration Video:  He's No Wimp ---

Bravo! Fifth Generation of Fighter Planes --- http://player.vimeo.com/video/3437045?autoplay=1

Hubble Ultra Deep --- http://www.flixxy.com/hubble-ultra-deep-field-3d.htm

Fallingwater, One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Finest Creations, Animated --- Click Here

Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Decline of Scientific Research in America --- Click Here

The Richard Feynman Trilogy: The Physicist Captured in Three Films --- Click Here

Celebrate Stephen Hawking’s 70th Birthday with Errol Morris’ Film, A Brief History of Time --- Click Here

Free: The Guggenheim Puts 65 Modern Art Books Online --- Click Here

100 Years in 10 Minutes: A Quick Video History of the Past Century --- Click Here

David Lynch in Four Movements: A Video Tribute --- Click Here

A Christmas Eve Story from a Retired State Trooper ---

What happens when the tide goes out?

America's First Jet Flight, October 1942 ---

Touched by a Wild Mountain Gorilla (Non HD version) --- Click Here

Katharine Hepburn Rearranges the Furniture on The Dick Cavett Show --- Click Here

George Orwell’s Animal Farm & 1984 Adapted to Film --- Click Here

Fellini’s Fantastic TV Commercials --- Click Here

Best and Worst 2011 films --- http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2830772/posts

Here’s Sergey Brin’s talk on how Google started off a simple idea built for one person and the need to just try things to be successful ---

Cute Dog Tricks --- http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=P9Fyey4D5hg

"Top 10 YouTube Videos of All Time,"  by Richard MacManus. ReadWriteWeb, January 9, 2012 ---
Thanks but no thanks.

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

Auld Lang Syne by Sissel (Norwegian Soprano).wmv ---

David Lynch in Four Movements: A Video Tribute --- Click Here

The 1940s --- http://www.objflicks.com/decadeofthe1940s.html

An Uplifting Musical Surprise for Dave Brubeck in Moscow (1997) --- Click Here

 Web outfits like Pandora, Foneshow, Stitcher, and Slacker broadcast portable and mobile content that makes Sirius look overpriced and stodgy ---

TheRadio (my favorite commercial-free online music site) --- http://www.theradio.com/
Slacker (my second-favorite commercial-free online music site) --- http://www.slacker.com/

Gerald Trites likes this international radio site --- http://www.e-radio.gr/
Songza:  Search for a song or band and play the selection --- http://songza.com/
Also try Jango --- http://www.jango.com/?r=342376581
Sometimes this old guy prefers the jukebox era (just let it play through) --- http://www.tropicalglen.com/
And I listen quite often to Soldiers Radio Live --- http://www.army.mil/fieldband/pages/listening/bandstand.html
Also note
U.S. Army Band recordings --- http://bands.army.mil/music/default.asp

Bob Jensen listens to music free online (and no commercials) --- http://www.slacker.com/ 

Photographs and Art

How Film Was Made: A Kodak Nostalgia Moment --- Click Here

University of Utah Photographic Exhibits --- http://www.lib.utah.edu/collections/photo-ex

Travel Alberta --- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThFCg0tBDck

Madeline 365: A Year in the Life --- Click Here

The Painted Churches of Texas --- http://www.klru.org/paintedchurches/history_czechs.html

Print by Print: The Baltimore Museum of Art [Flash Player] ---

The 1940s --- http://www.objflicks.com/decadeofthe1940s.html

Hell in the Pacific: Rare World War II photographs show American soldiers' fight for survival in brutal Battle of Saipan ---

U.S. South Pole Station --- http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/livingsouthpole/

Lincoln Park Architectural Photographs --- http://digicol.lib.depaul.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/lpnc1

Track and Field Galleries --- http://www.trackandfieldnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&id=573&Itemid=118

National Geographic: Maps --- http://maps.nationalgeographic.com/maps

Lake Superior --- Click Here

Fallingwater, One of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Finest Creations, Animated --- Click Here

The Virtual Museum of Japanese Arts --- http://web-japan.org/museum/menu.html

Whatever happened to Joe Namath (by his own admission tackled repeatedly by alcohol that changed him into a jerk)?---

He Folds Money and Lives in a Garbage Truck
Part 1 --- http://forum.treasurenet.com/index.php?PHPSESSID=fv9p9htfnr4jveie74peku5922&topic=405786.msg2885429#msg2885429
Part 2 --- http://forum.treasurenet.com/index.php?topic=405786.0

Life in 4,748 Self-Portraits --- Click Here

Diego Rivera: Murals for the Museum of Modern Art [Flash Player] --- http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2011/rivera/

Countries and Coastlines: A Dramatic View of Earth from Outer Space --- Click Here

Pergamon Museum  (Berlin) --- Click Here

Africa in Black and White Photos --- Click Here

Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (and visualization) ---
Thank you Ramesh Fernando for the heads up.

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

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

200,000 Martin Luther King Papers Go Online --- Click Here

Digital Public Library of America --- http://dp.la/

Remembering Eve Arnold, Pioneering Photojournalist --- Click Here

"BLACKWELL ON WRITING: The Long and the Very Short of It," by Elise Blackwell, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 1, 2012 --- http://chronicle.com/blogs/brainstorm/blackwell-on-writing-the-long-and-the-very-short-of-it/42488?sid=cr&utm_source=cr&utm_medium=en 

Free Philip K. Dick: Download 11 Great Science Fiction Stories --- Click Here

"Sherlock: the case of Moriarty's maths," by Pete Wilton, University of Oxford via Financial Education, January 9, 2012 ---

Nabokov Reads Lolita, Names the Great Books of the 20th Century --- Click Here

Free Online Textbooks, Videos, and Tutorials --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ElectronicLiterature.htm#Textbooks
Free Tutorials in Various Disciplines --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/Bookbob2.htm#Tutorials
Edutainment and Learning Games --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/thetools.htm#Edutainment
Open Sharing Courses --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/000aaa/updateee.htm#OKI

Now in Another Tidbits Document
Political Quotations on January 24, 2012

The booked National Debt on January 24, 2012 was slightly over $15 trillion ---
U.S. National Debt Clock --- http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

World Giving Index 2011: U.S. Is #1 (Out of 153 Countries)
Gallup Survey:  Giving money, volunteering time and helping a stranger ---
The comments at the end are nasty.

From BBC News, December 13, 2011
Top Economists Reveal Their Graphs --- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-16090055
Click on the Start Slide Show button

Some links for Martin Luther King Day 2012 ---

"Lessons from a century of large public debt reductions and build-ups," by S. M. Ali Abbas, Nazim Belhocine, Asmaa El-Ganainy, and Mark Horton, Vox, December 18, 2011 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on entitlements ---


Crowded House: How the World’s Population Grew to 7 Billion People --- Click Here

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

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

"5 Predictions for Higher Ed Technology in 2012," by Audrey Waters, Inside Higher Ed, January 1, 2011 ---

"Three Big Law, Policy and Internet Issues of the New Year," by Tracy Mitrano, Inside Higher Ed, January 3, 2011 ---

The Best of Open Culture 2011 --- Click Here

Best and Worst 2011 films (not free) --- http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2830772/posts

Tax Analysts society names as its 2011 Person of the Year
Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, and notes the other individuals who were considered for the title

"The 11 Coolest Gadgets From CES 2012," by Steve Kovach, Open Forum, January 19, 2012 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on gadgets ---

"The Friday Podcast: The Secret Document That Transformed China," NPR Podcast, January 13, 2012 ---

The Rotten Apple iBooks

Apple launches iBooks 2 e-Textbook platform (video) --- http://www.engadget.com/2012/01/19/apple-iBooks-2/

iBooks: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) --- http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059

What are the requirements to use iBooks?


January 19 Comment by Alex at the end of the article at

There is indeed a lot to like except one major objection: Apple has once again opted not to support open standards and instead chosen to implement interactive iBooks via a proprietary format that could only be consumed on Apple-only devices.

Clearly, Apple is most interested in locking the education market into a closed system where iBooks textbooks can only be produced, sold, distributed and consumed by Apple-only technology.

Also, the iBooks Author app capability to export interactive multimedia-rich books as plain-text or PDF is a lame face-saving gimmic.

Shame on Apple for not fully supporting open standards like HTML5 and ePub3, and for undermining the open Web and Web browsers in favor of a closed proprietary system.

January 20, 2012 reply from Richard Campbell

One concern I have with Apple's iBooks Author program is in respect to the EULA


I would prefer that Apple would charge for this authoring program and allow the standard file format (epub) be sold wherever the author wanted. Under the current conditions, Apple gets 30% of anything created with this program.

On a brighter note, it means that individual entrepreneurs who create their own works will be at a competive advantage vis-a-vis the major publishers.


January 20, 2012 reply from Bob Jensen

Hi Richard,

As one of the most diehard ToolBook users are you still writing ToolBooks?

It's amazing how iBooks have apparently borrowed almost all the ideas (such as wizards) from ToolBook with a couple of major exceptions. ToolBook has relatively expensive licensing fees but will play back on most Internet Browsers, including 100 millions of Windows machines.

As far as I can tell, iBooks will only play back on iPads which has to greatly limit the population of users to only those with access to iPad machines. Meanwhile, Amazon is still winning the high volume user and price wars on eBook downloads to its Kindle.

I would hate to have to author a textbook with touchscreen keys and a small screen. I realize there are limited apps for iPad keyboards and screen projections, but life would be so much simpler if IPads just had two or more UBS ports and a VGA port.

Also there are many, many readers and authors who want optional hard copy books. Depending too much upon multimedia for book authoring may be premature until hard copy books themselves have built in video playback screens on the inside back cover --- which is not yet a technology that I've seen developed.

Alternately, hard copy books may one day have UBS-type ports where video player headsets can be plugged into the binding of a hard copy book. This might be a neat way to publish hard copy books with multimedia components. The days of ubiquitous computing are just dawning and this may include a small computer built into the binding of a hard copy book --- http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/ubiquit.htm

Bob Jensen

PS I disagree with your implication that publishers have lost comparative advantages vis-a-vis custom (Vanity Press) authoring. Since you teach CVP analysis you must appreciate the fact that publishers still can add greatly to the "V" in CVP. You witness this every semester when publisher book reps walk up and down the halls outside your faculty office. The proportion of accounting textbook market share held by major textbook publishers may be declining slightly, but it's certainly not enough of a decline to contend that major textbook publishing houses do not currently have very important comparative advantages to authors of textbooks.


Bob Jensen's threads on eBooks are at

Bob Jensen's threads on free electronic literature are at

"A Good and Bad Week for Free Speech," by Christopher Jon Sprigman, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 20, 2012 ---

Jensen Comment
Quotations from this long article can be misleading. It needs to be read in its entirety.

Bob Jensen's threads on the dreaded DMCA ---

"Ernst & Young: Named Top Employer In 2012 Stonewall Workplace Equality Index," by Erica deVry, Big4.com, January 20, 2012 ---

The Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, which showcases the UK’s top 100 public and private sector employers for gay, lesbian, and bisexual staff, has named Ernst & Young Employer of the Year for 2012, climbing from third place last year. The firm also received top ranking in Stonewall’s inaugural ‘Global Best Practice Index’.

Commenting on Stonewall’s recognition, Harry Gaskell, Managing Partner for Advisory and Head of Diversity and Inclusiveness at Ernst & Young said:

“Being named the 2012 Employer of the Year is an achievement that we’re very proud of. I’m really happy with the great progress the firm has made since it first entered the Workplace Equality Index in 2005 and look forward to continuing to champion diversity and inclusiveness in 2012.”

Ernst & Young’s leading role in developing the concept of inclusive leadership, its sponsorship of National Student Pride, its engagement with clients about sexual orientation as a workplace issue, and strong leadership driven from the top are some of the progressive initiatives attributed to the firm’s success.

Continued in article

"Deloitte Given Perfect Rating on Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index," by Kalen Smith, Big4.com, January 13, 2012 ---

The Human Rights Campaign has named Deloitte one of the best places to work for the sixth year in a row. In their 2012 Corporate Equality Index, the HRC noted that it gave Deloitte a 100 percent rating.

Deloitte chief talent officer, Jennifer Steinmann, said that Deloitte is constantly working to provide a workplace that employees will be proud of. Steinmann said that they offer a culture that helps the LGBT community and encourages all of its employees to feel accepted.

Steinmann said that Deloitte offers a number of solutions to the variety of challenges they face as they strive to create an environment that increases employee morale and gives all employees the opportunity to thrive. Deloitte has used a number of Business Resource Groups to educate employees and offer them the resources they need to address the challenges they face in the workplace.

HRC is making its standards increasingly strict. Due to the changes in their eligibility standards, about 50 percent of companies have fallen off of the list. New standards include providing a culture for members of the LGBT community and promoting company citizenship.

Steinmann and other representatives at Deloitte state that they are proud of the fact that Deloitte has consistently earned this recognition since 2006.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on the best places to work are at

The sad part about going into business apart from writing books is that having such a huge vested interest in that business creates moral hazard in terms of independence as on of the leading personal finance commentators in the world. The champion of the poor and troubled may be trying to increase her 1% at the expense of the poor and troubled.

Suze Orman --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suze_Orman

"Suze Orman, Debit-Card Dealer:  The money guru introduces her first financial product—and vexes some fans," by Karen Weise, Bloomberg Business Week, January 19, 2012 ---

“I love you!” a woman yells as personal finance guru Suze Orman enters the drab conference room at a Barnes & Noble (BKS) in suburban New Jersey. Fans cheer and clap while a man in the front row tears up from excitement. Orman is here to preach the tough-love brand of financial advice that she’s been peddling for more than a decade through nine bestselling books, a highly rated CNBC show, and regular appearances on the old Oprah Winfrey Show. “You have got to be the masters of your own financial future,” she tells the 200-strong crowd. While the event coincides with a new paperback edition of her 10th book, The Money Class, that’s not the main focus of her talk. “You need more than books,” she says. “Now you need the tools.”

Orman has a particular tool in mind. Just a few days earlier she introduced her first financial product: a prepaid debit card emblazoned with her name. She sees her Approved Card as an alternative way for people who are fed up with—or don’t have—traditional checking accounts and credit cards to manage their cash. And if the most ambitious part of her plan succeeds, the card may eventually help users improve their credit scores.

Orman’s Approved Card, issued by Wilmington (Del.)-based Bancorp Bank (TBBK), is in part designed to play the role of pestering mom. The basics are simple: People use electronic transfers or cash to load money onto their cards, then use them like regular debit cards, buying groceries or shopping online. The Orman touch comes in such features as automatic text message alerts sent to mobile phones that note the balance remaining on the card after each purchase. The card’s website has Orman issuing such sharply worded reminders as, “Before you make a purchase, you’d better be able to afford it—do you hear me?!”

Prepaid cards are the fastest-growing payment method, Federal Reserve data show. In 2010 people used them for $65 billion in transactions, compared with $48 billion in 2009, the industry newsletter Nilson Report says. Part of the cards’ appeal is that you can’t get into debt with them. “I think it’s a good idea to have a prepaid card rather than going out willy-nilly with a credit card,” says Glinda Kidd at the book signing.

Still, prepaid cards often come loaded with fees—and Orman’s is no exception. It has a standard $3 monthly charge. While there’s no cost to reload the card with direct deposits or automatic transfers from a checking account, people must pay up to $4.95 to put cash on the card at Western Union (WU) or MoneyGram (MGI) locations. And if they load with cash rather than electronically, all ATM withdrawals cost $2. One free call to a customer service rep is included each month; extra calls are $2 each.

“What people don’t understand is the cost to do business,” says Orman in an interview. “If I could have given this to you for free, I would have.” Orman, who says she invested $1 million in the venture, declines to discuss how much money she might make from it. And she vows to train customers to keep their costs down. In videos on the card’s website, she explains the fees, warning that people who load their cards electronically can get cash from one of the 35,000 ATMs in the Allpoint network for free but will incur a $2 charge for using other ATMs—plus whatever fee the ATM operator imposes. “Why would you want to waste money like that?” she says in the video. “Don’t be lazy, and go to an Allpoint ATM.”

Orman says if she finds people are incurring fees to put cash on the card, only to spend another $2 to get cash at an ATM, she will ask them to turn in their plastic. If you’re going to squander money that way, “just keep it in cash! You don’t need the damn card,” she tells the audience at the book signing.

Michael Collins, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin who studies the financial decision-making of low-income families, says people will eventually figure out the costs of any product. “The question is how long will it take” and how much in fees they will have racked up by then, he says. Collins adds that if Orman’s messages help people control their spending impulses, the card could be beneficial: “Anything that gets people to think harder about their financial security and take some responsibility is a good thing.”

Some personal finance bloggers have complained about the fees and charged that Orman is using her influence to bilk her fans. On Twitter, the Blog Finanza website said: “You are taking your authority figure to make a $$ from your audience. #DENIED”—echoing a catchphrase from Orman’s TV show. Others, such as MSNBC.com consumer finance columnist Herb Weisbaum, said many people would be better served by building their credit immediately with a secured credit card.

Orman dismisses the criticisms, saying the card reflects her understanding of people’s financial habits and needs. “I am the personal financial expert of the world,” she says. “I know what I am talking about.” Publicly, Orman lashed out on Twitter against the naysayers, calling them “small thinkers,” “idiots,” and “Suze haters.” After New York Times personal finance columnist Ron Lieber and others protested the harsh words, she issued a blanket apology: “For anyone I called an idiot, I too am sorry.”

Continued in article

"Does Suze Orman's Prepaid Debit Card Make Sense for You?" by Sarah Gilbert, Get Rich Slowly, January 17, 2012 ---

Suze Orman is famous for her personal, easy-to-digest, and friendly personal finance advice. Many of us less famous (far less famous, in the case of this writer) finance writers admire her general approach, which boils down to “spend less than you earn.” Who can argue with that? So imagine my amazement at the news this week that Suze will be offering a branded prepaid debit card.

Prepaid debit cards have a star-crossed reputation
You know about branded prepaid debit cards, but they're usually not connected with individuals known for their sensible finance advice. Think
Russell Simmons. Think the Kardashians. See? Sample words and phrases from our collective wisdom on those topics include “skeptical” and “reprehensible” and “urge to scream” and “hit cash-strapped consumers over the head with nickel-and-dime charges.”

Suze Orman is famous for her personal, easy-to-digest, and friendly personal finance advice. Many of us less famous (far less famous, in the case of this writer) finance writers admire her general approach, which boils down to “spend less than you earn.” Who can argue with that? So imagine my amazement at the news this week that Suze will be offering a branded prepaid debit card.

Prepaid debit cards have a star-crossed reputation You know about branded prepaid debit cards, but they're usually not connected with individuals known for their sensible finance advice. Think Russell Simmons. Think the Kardashians. See? Sample words and phrases from our collective wisdom on those topics include “skeptical” and “reprehensible” and “urge to scream” and “hit cash-strapped consumers over the head with nickel-and-dime charges.”

The biggest problems with prepaid debit cards are, really, threefold:

While they are cards that are available to consumers with bad credit, they don't help consumers build credit, though they are advertised as doing so (any help would be mild at best - the reporting they do is only to smaller credit reporting agencies, not the “big three” that man the velvet rope for most consumer debt in America). They're punishingly expensive and seem more directed toward association with the personality branding the card than any financial benefit. Russell's “Rush” Card costs between $4 and $15 upfront, with $10 monthly fees and $1 per-transaction fees. They're accused of using celebrities to take advantage of both the hopes and difficult situations of the “unbanked,” mostly-lower-class, often minority consumers whose financial situation is so bad that banks won't take the risk of giving them checking accounts.

Suze Orman wants to make a difference (but, is it a fool's errand?) Orman has a different idea. She, too, wants to convince the unbanked to use her prepaid debit card, but she wants to charge less. Her “Approved Card” is far cheaper than Rush or the K thingy - only $3 to purchase the card and a $3 monthly fee. ATM transactions from the Allpoint network (found in 7-Eleven, Costco, Kroger, CVS, and Walgreens) are $2 per withdrawal, and point of sale transactions, such as purchases at the grocery store or coffee shop or online, are free. Balance inquiries and some declined transactions are $1 , but it's free to be declined at the register for a regular PIN/signature transaction. Many of these transactions, especially ATM withdrawals, are free for 30 days with a direct deposit or bank transfer into the Approved Card account, making them a great product for customers with some sort of automatically-deposited income (even, for instance, unemployment).

Notably, electronic debit bill paying is free. Many competing products charge for this service, from $1 to $3 per transaction, and it's the service that customers without a regular bank account need. Often, discounts and special deals are available to customers who allow vendors to debit their account each month.

The great credit score kerfuffle
The concept that sells many prepaid debit cards - the quasi-justification for how expensive they are - is that they might help in the quest to raise a credit score. If a credit score is low enough so that a mainstream bank isn't part of your personal finance portfolio, can a prepaid debit card even help? Probably not.

The problem that Suze Orman has mentioned in public statements about the Approved Card is that credit bureaus, beyond even knowing about the transactions made by the millions of unbanked consumers, don't care about sensible use of money. They just care about sensible use of credit. A New York Times piece quotes Orman as saying, “There is something radically wrong here. We are rewarding people for having credit and punishing people who pay in cash. I want to change that paradigm.”

Wanting to change credit score calculation is easy. Changing is hard.
Orman has done the near-impossible and convinced TransUnion, one of the big three credit bureaus, to collect the data about spending habits from her customers. But what that will do to credit scores is another thing entirely. The answer, probably, is nothing.

The problem that Suze Orman has mentioned in public statements about the Approved Card is that credit bureaus, beyond even knowing about the transactions made by the millions of unbanked consumers, don't care about sensible use of money. They just care about sensible use of credit. A New York Times piece quotes Orman as saying, “There is something radically wrong here. We are rewarding people for having credit and punishing people who pay in cash. I want to change that paradigm.”

Wanting to change credit score calculation is easy. Changing is hard.
Orman has done the near-impossible and convinced TransUnion, one of the big three credit bureaus, to collect the data about spending habits from her customers. But what that will do t
o credit scores is another thing entirely. The answer, probably, is nothing.

The problem is that TransUnion has only been persuaded to evaluate the data Orman will collect with her Approved Card; it has not promised to include that in credit reports nor in the calculation of scores. If, after two years, it finds the data meaningful, it's still unlikely to have much of an effect on the resultant calculations. Responsible use of a prepaid debit card, after all, hasn't had much impact on the financial institutions that sponsor the card - in this case, Orman's own company - so the patterns of data don't have much meaning.

What kind of debit card use could demonstrate the sort of behavior creditors want to see, such as:

These all can be shown far more reliably through existing reporting. A consumer who pays rent on time each month in cash won't differ, to the eyes of TransUnion, from a consumer who pays rent on time each month by automatic debit from her Approved Card. Similarly, failing to overdraw an Approved Card account (that is impossible to overdraw from, except perhaps for a few $1/$2 ATM transaction declined fees) is very different from failing to overdraw a bank account.

Why would you use a prepaid debit card?
There are two groups of people I can see benefiting from using a prepaid debit card, as well as one group I would caution to avoid it. All of them could achieve higher credit scores, but not in the way you think. Let me explain

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
The sad part about going into business apart from writing books is that having such a huge vested interest in that business creates moral hazard in terms of independence as on of the leading personal finance commentators in the world. The champion of the poor and troubled may be trying to increase her 1% at the expense of the poor and troubled.

Bob Jensen's personal finance helpers are at

When is the last time you ever heard of taxes being lower in Massachusetts, New York, and California?
Thank you Paul Caron for the heads up.

"NFL Final Four: Boston, New York, and San Francisco Trump Baltimore in Lower Taxes," by Steve H. Hanke and Stephen J.K. Walters, The Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2012 ---

This Sunday's NFL championship games have it all: future Hall-of-Famers in abundance, jet-fueled offenses, bone-crushing defenses, and even a pair of coaches vying to bring a sibling rivalry to Super Bowl Sunday in two weeks.

And if you're a fan of cities more than their sports teams, you know that these games feature genuine superstars: Boston, New York and San Francisco are magnets to residents and employers, engines of prosperity, and league leaders on any quality-of-life measure.

Then there's our hometown. Baltimore is in need of a strategy for urban revival—the type of elixir that turned the other three cities around.

Some historical perspective is in order. Three decades ago, none of these cities worked very well and all were losing residents. Between 1950 and 1980, New York's population declined 10%, San Francisco's 12%, Baltimore's 17% and Boston's an astounding 30%.

These losses were accompanied by steady erosion of each city's job base, rising crime, declining school quality, and a sense that cities themselves might be passé. Many embraced the notion that the post-World War II exodus from core cities was a result of racism (fueling "white flight") or Americans' unfortunate taste for detached homes and expansive lawns.

Then, around 1980, some cities that had been in decline enjoyed dramatic reversals of fortune. Between 1980 and 2010, Boston's population grew 10%, New York's 16%, and San Francisco's 19%. But Baltimore continued its descent, losing another 21% of its residents.

Did those in turnaround cities magically discover the virtues of racial diversity or high-density living? Or did their leaders heed the lessons of previous decades and correct policy errors that had contributed to urban decay?

Neither. There was no sudden change in the cultures of the cities that would become superstars, and no real awareness among their governing elites that they were doing anything wrong. But their most damaging policy reflexes were, in fact, altered—against their will.

All these cities had long pursued progressive political agendas with pride. But the problem with redistributive policies at the local level is that the donor classes might move out as fast as beneficiary classes move in—or, as the population figures cited earlier show, even faster. Robin Hood may seem a heroic figure, but once his rich victims flee Nottingham, even that city's poor might question his effectiveness. Related Video

Steve Hanke on why New York, Boston, and San Francisco are flourishing while Baltimore is languishing.

San Francisco and Boston were rescued from their folly by statewide tax revolts. California's Prop 13, passed in 1978, capped property taxes in that state at 1%—which slashed San Francisco's rate by almost two-thirds. Massachusetts followed suit in 1980 with Prop 2½, which mandated that municipalities could not increase their total property tax receipts by more than 2.5% annually. New York City taxpayers did not revolt, but state legislators rationalized the Big Apple's chaotic property tax system in 1981; it now enjoys property tax rates that average about one-third of those in its surrounding suburbs (though its other taxes are certainly punishing).

While no single factor explains any city's destiny, it is not a mere coincidence that Boston, New York and San Francisco reversed their declines at the exact moment they became favorable environments for private investment in residential and business capital.

Every time a city raises the tax rate on residential and business property, its owners suffer a capital loss (which economists refer to as "tax capitalization"). In effect, tax hikes are incremental expropriations; owners flee not just because of short-term wealth losses but in fear of future damage to their property rights. Tax caps not only improve the immediate cash flow on investments in real property but—perhaps more important—secure it against further expropriations.

Baltimore has blithely ignored basic property-rights theory. When high property taxes chased many residents and business owners to the suburbs, the city raised rates further. When grandiose slum-clearance and transit plans destabilized neighborhoods, Baltimore's one-party establishment arranged eminent-domain seizures and pushed even more "big footprint" renewal projects.

The results leave no doubt about which strategy is more effective. Baltimore's real, median household income has been stagnant for the last three decades. New York's has risen 22% while Boston's and San Francisco's have soared by half. Baltimore's 2009 homicide rate was 4.7 times Boston's and 6.7 times New York's and San Francisco's.

Even Baltimore's sports facilities, which many assume have contributed mightily to our mythical renaissance, carry a lesson. Boston, New York and San Francisco have all declined to build their football teams new, lavish, government-financed stadiums within city limits. They've nevertheless thrived.

Maryland taxpayers, on the other hand, gifted Baltimore wonderful football and baseball stadiums near our Inner Harbor, on the theory that "stimulating" downtown development would be a game-changer that inevitably spread prosperity throughout the city. They're still hoping for that change.

In this, Baltimore is no different from other cities wedded to policies that repel investment. All try to make up for this deficiency via capital allocation by government—and all show disappointing results. As this weekend's championship cities demonstrate, greater respect for private capital and some protections for the property rights of its owners can have miraculous effects. Someday, even Baltimore might call that play.

Jensen Comment
But when you compare states rather than cities, people and businesses are exiting Taxachusetts, New York, and California to states having lower taxes. For example, many very wealthy people (like Mitt Romney) now reside in New Hampshire and commute or telecommute to Boston. Similarly, some wealthy people live in Delaware and commute and telecommute to New York and Baltimore. They have to pay state taxes on earned income within a state, but for very wealthy people earned income is generally less than investment income such as income from tax exempt bonds. The retired Barnie Frank, who is now quite wealthy, admits that a major portion of his investment portfolio is in Mass. municipal bonds that are tax exempt in his federal and state returns.

My good friend Bob Anthony, now deceased, made a lot of money on textbook royalties and investment income. It didn't take much imagination to figure out one of the major reasons he made New Hampshire his home state even when he was on the full-time  faculty of Harvard University for most of his career. I'm not a wealthy man, but with my more modest savings in retirement it also does not take a lot of imagination to figure out why I chose to retire in New Hampshire rather than other states I considered such as the coast of Maine, the lakes of northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, or wonderful retirement places in northern California. The runner up retirement choice for me was the Nevada shores of Lake Tahoe, but real estate prices were too steep for me in that vicinity.

"States Where People Pay the Most (and Least) in Taxes," by Charles B. Stockdale, Michael B. Sauter, Douglas A. McIntyre, Yahoo Finance, July 21, 2011 ---

Bob Jensen's threads on taxation are at

Marginal Tax Rates Around the World --- http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/MarginalTaxRates.html

"How Much the Rich Pay Mitt Romney, the 1% and taxes," The Wall Street Journal, January 20, 2012 ---

Mitt Romney's disclosure this week that his effective federal tax rate is "probably closer to the 15% rate than anything" has created the predictable political uproar. The White House and its media allies figure they've now got their stereotype of the Monopoly man, albeit without his cane and top hat, who they can crush in their planned class-warfare campaign.

We're not sure if facts will matter in this cacophony, but someone should at least try to introduce a little reality into the debate, especially since Mr. Romney seems so unprepared to make the case.

Start with the fact that, like Warren Buffett, Mr. Romney said he makes most of his money from investments, not wages or salary. Thus his income is really taxed twice: once at the corporate tax rate of 35%, then again at a 15% tax rate when it is passed through to him as dividends or via capital gains from the sale of stock.

All income from businesses is eventually passed through to the owners, so to ignore business taxes creates a statistical illusion that makes it appear that the rich pay less than they really do. By this logic, if the corporate tax rate were raised to, say, 60% from today's 35% and the dividend and capital gains tax were cut to zero, it would appear that business owners were getting away with paying no federal tax at all.

This all-too-conveniently confuses the incidence of a tax with the burden of a tax. The marginal tax rate on every additional dollar of capital gains and dividend income from corporate profits can reach as high as 44.75% at the federal level (assuming a company pays the 35% top corporate rate), not 15%.

The Congressional Budget Office recently examined the distribution of federal taxes on various income groups. The report was ballyhooed by liberals as proof of rising income inequality, but that argument is for another day. What everyone has ignored is what CBO found about the relative taxes paid by different groups. And, lo, the rich pay more, which is probably why the press didn't report it.

The nearby table from the CBO report shows that in 2007 the average income tax rate paid by the 1% was 18.8%, compared to 4.2% for Americans in a broadly defined middle class from the 21st to 80th income percentiles. The poorest 20% on average paid a net negative income-tax rate of 5.6% because of the checks they receive for tax credits that are "refundable." These are essentially transfer payments redistributing income from the rich and middle class to the poor.

As for all federal taxes, CBO found that in 2007 the top 1% paid an average rate of a little under 30%, compared to 15.1% for middle-income earners. In calculating this overall tax burden, CBO takes account of payroll taxes, which moves the rate of the lowest 20% of earners into positive territory at 4.7%. CBO also apportions to individuals who are shareholders the tax that corporations pay on corporate profits.

Continued in article

"Why Americans think the tax rate is high when it is not," The Economic Times ---

When people heard that Mitt Romney's federal income tax rate was about 15 per cent, the immediate reaction of many was to assume that their own tax rate was higher. The top marginal rate is 35 per cent, after all, and the marginal rate on a couple with $70,000 in taxable income is 25 per cent.

But the truth is that most households probably pay a lower rate than Romney. It is impossible to know for sure, given that he has yet to release his tax return. What is clear, though, is that a large majority of US households - about two out of three - pays less than 15 per cent of income to the federal government, through either income taxes or payroll taxes.

This disconnect between what we pay and what we think we pay is nothing less than one of the country's biggest economic problems.

Many Americans see themselves as struggling under the weight of a heavy tax burden (partly for the understandable reason that wage growth has been so weak). Yet taxes in the United States are quite low today, compared with past years or those in other countries. Most important, US taxes are not sufficient to pay for the programs that many people want, like Medicare, Social Security, road construction and education subsidies.

What does this combination create? An enormous long-term budget deficit.

Together, all federal taxes equaled 14.4 per cent of the nation's economic output last year, the lowest level since 1950. Add state and local taxes, and the share nearly doubles, to about 27 per cent, according to the Tax Policy Center in Washington - still lower than at almost any other point in the past 40 years.

As the economy recovers and incomes rise, tax payments will increase somewhat. But they will not keep pace with projected spending, in the form of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. And total taxes at current rates would still make up a smaller share of the economy than in virtually any other rich country - not just European nations but also Australia, Canada, Israel and New Zealand.

Obviously, tax increases are not the only way to solve the deficit. Spending cuts can, too. But so far, at least, many voters seem to prefer small, symbolic cuts, like those to foreign aid. Substantial cuts - be they the changes to Medicare that President Barack Obama included in his health care bill or the Medicare overhaul that Republicans prefer - tend to be politically unpopular.

Since the late 1970s, just before the modern tax-cutting push began, total federal tax rates have fallen for every income group. The payroll tax has risen, but declines in the income tax have more than made up for those increases. Nearly half the population now pays no federal income tax.

Most households pay less than 15 per cent of their income to the federal government because of tax breaks, like the exclusion for health insurance, and because marginal rates apply to only a small part of a taxpayer's income. On the first $70,000 of a couple's taxable income, the total federal income tax rate is only 13.8 per cent.

That said, taxes have fallen the most for the very affluent. Romney and his father - George W. Romney, the former automobile executive, Michigan governor and presidential candidate - do a nice job of illustrating the change.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
Of course rich and poor alike pay other taxes such as taxes at the fuel pump and payroll deduction taxes if those ever come back (which seems increasingly unlikely in our political dogfight). And there are serious ways to be mislead by media-alleged tax rates. For example, do you compute the tax rate that you're paying now on your own tax return on the basis of full gross income versus adjusted gross income after exclusions and deferrals for such thinks as interest on municipal bonds, 401-K deferrals, and other tax breaks in the current tax rules? Chances are if you divide your 2011 what you pay in 2011 federal income taxes by the full "gross" income you will find that you're paying 10% or less.

Rich people take greater advantages of such tax law provisions such as exemption of interest on municipal and school bonds. But in a sense they are paying a virtual tax on those exemptions since municipal and school bonds have lower interest returns and/or more default risk. Hence computing the marginal rate that rich people pay in taxes becomes more complicated than you will ever learn from watching MSNBC or reading the New York Times.

Bob Jensen's helpers for taxpayers are at

How many bottom feeder journal articles does it take to get tenure at a diploma mill?
A person called Flag in a comment to the article below.

"A Plague of Journals," by Philip G. Altbach , Inside Higher Ed, January 15, 2012 ---

Clever people have figured out that there is a growing demand for outlets for scholarly work, that there are too few journals or other channels to accommodate all the articles written, that new technology has created confusion as well as opportunities, and (finally) and somewhat concerning is that there is money to be made in the knowledge communication business. As a result, there has been a proliferation of new publishers offering new journals in every imaginable field. The established for-profit publishers have also been purchasing journals and creating new ones so that they “bundle” them and offer them at high prices to libraries through electronic subscriptions.

Scholars and scientists worldwide find themselves under increasing pressure to publish more, especially in English-language “internationally circulated” journals that are included in globally respected indices such as the Science Citation Index. As a result, journals that are part of these networks have been inundated by submissions and many journals accept as few as 10%.

Universities increasingly demand more publications as conditions for promotion, salary increases, or even job security. As a result, the large majority of submissions must seek alternative publication outlets. After all, being published somewhere is better than not be published at all. Many universities are satisfied with counting numbers of articles without regard to quality or impact, while others, mostly top-ranking, are obsessed with impact—creating increased stress for professors.

A variety of new providers have come into this new marketplace. Some scholarly organizations and universities have created new “open access” electronic journals that have decent peer-reviewing systems and the backing of respected scholars and scientists. Some of these publications have achieved a level of respectability and acceptance, while others are struggling.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
What really sets me off are journals that will publish articles for authors willing to pay by the page for such "journal publications." This is a real moral hazard that is likely to corrupt the refereeing process --- if there is any refereeing of such articles. Anybody has the freedom to publish an academic article at a Website. Authors who pay to be able to cite a "journal" hit are most likely padding their resumes. This can, however, be dysfunctional to their careers if word gets out about the author-pays "journals."

In my opinion paying to have a journal article published is more serious than having a book custom published. When a book is custom published the author's resume does not (or at least should not) imply that other peer scholars published the item. Journal articles usually imply that some outside referees have accepted the article.

Gaming for Tenure as an Accounting Professor ---
(with a reply about tenure publication point systems from Linda Kidwell)

Our UnderAchieving Colleges ---


Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (and visualization) ---
Thank you Ramesh Fernando for the heads up.

Bob Jensen's threads on visualization of multivariate data ---

Many broad sweeping generalizations signify ignorance in our Academy
These are the kinds of things that I expect from my barbers and not my colleagues
"Lazy Higher Ed Journalism," by Melonie Fullick, Inside Higher Ed, January 17, 2012 ---

Why are Social Entrepreneurs Like Ginger Rogers?

Answer from Stanford University

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers - "Dirty Dancing" ---
Note this is not the sound track of the original movies

One of my favorites
Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers (Tap Dance) ---

Does the IRS offer professional courtesy to delinquent taxpayers on the federal payroll?
Is the IRS especially lenient with Congressional staffers?

"Federal employees owe $1.03 billion in unpaid taxes," by Ed O'Keefe, Washington Post, January 23, 2012 --- Click Here

Congressional staffers owed about $10.6 million in unpaid taxes in 2010, a slight increase from the previous year and a growing slice of the roughly $1 billion owed by federal and postal workers nationwide.

The figures come as Republican efforts to pass legislation allowing federal agencies to fire tax delinquent federal employees have slowed and as the White House continues to crack down on improper payments made by agencies to delinquent government contractors and federal beneficiaries.

About 98,000 federal, postal and congressional employees owed $1.03 billion in unpaid taxes at the end of fiscal 2010, according to records provided by the Internal Revenue Service. The total number of delinquent employees dipped slightly from 2009, but the amount owed jumped by $32 million.

The figures are “totally unacceptable and disrespectful to hardworking American taxpayers,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). “If you’re on the federal payroll, the very least you can do is pay your taxes.”

Chaffetz and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) have authored bills that would force federal agencies, the U.S. Postal Service and congressional offices to fire employees who purposely avoid paying taxes. Exceptions would be made for employees suffering from family turmoil or working to correct significant financial hardship. Chaffetz’s bill was approved by a committee last spring, but Coburn’s still awaits consideration by a Senate panel.

“Nobody’s going to take any joy in firing someone,” Chaffetz said in an interview. “But there’s enough people there that are simply thumbing their nose at American taxpayers that it’s not acceptable.

(RELATED: Which federal workers owed taxes in 2010?)

But on Capitol Hill, 684 employees, or almost 4 percent, of the 18,000 congressional staffers owed taxes in 2010 – a jump of 46 workers from 2009. Four percent of House staffers owed $8.5 million and 3 percent of Senate employees owed $2.1 million, the IRS said.

Continued in article


So why not the Turbo Tax Defense?
"Former Ohio State Bar President Gets One Year in Prison for Tax Fraud," by Paul Caron, Tax Prof Blog, January 19, 2012 ---

Leslie Hines, a former senior antitrust partner in Thompson Hine's Cleveland office, was sentenced Tuesday to serve a year and a day in prison in connection with his guilty plea on a federal tax fraud charge, according to a press release issued by the Justice Department.

Federal prosecutors had been seeking a sentence of up to 16 months in prison for Jacobs, who was charged last October with filing false tax returns and overstating his business expenses by more than $250,000.

According to court filings [PDF], Jacobs filed four federal income tax returns between 2004 and 2007 that inflated his business expenses by as little as $25,000 and as much as $94,000 in an effort to lower the taxable income he collected from his Thompson Hine partnership. Prosecutors said Jacobs's income in each of those years should have ranged from $633,303 to $759,973.

Jensen Comment
A better lawyer would've embezzled more than that from clients.
Even a lousy accountant could've fabricated expense receipts better than that.
Hence Mr. Hines should've been either an accountant or a better lawyer.

Better yet he should've used the TurboTax Defense that works for big crooks ---
Watch the video how how Mr. Hines should6ve proceeded ---

University of Capetown's Centre for Education Technology --- http://www.cet.uct.ac.za/ 

"Wikis Made Simple -- Very Simple:  Wetpaint and other wiki startups are offering free and easy-to-use tools. But will most consumers really care?," by Wade Roush, MIT's Technology Review, June 21, 2006 --- http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?id=17009&ch=infotech

A Seattle startup called Wetpaint launched the newest Web-based "wiki" platform this week, offering people who register with the company the ability to create community websites that can be edited easily by any user, or by invited members only, depending on the creator's preference.

Wikis have been a popular tool for Internet geeks for about a decade, and now they're beginning to be adopted inside many businesses. For the most part, though, they haven't crossed into the mainstream -- the way that other Web-based publishing technologies such as blogs have. Wetpaint's founders hope to make that transition -- in part, by making their free, advertising-supported service as easy to use as familiar software tools such e-mail and word-processor programs.

Starting a Wetpaint site is as simple as picking a name and design, creating a few pages, writing something in them, and deciding who can edit them. The company's CEO, Ben Elowitz, says he hopes everyone from neighborhood watch groups to Cub Scout leaders will warm up to Wetpaint and start using it to collaborate on projects and manage group information.

Elowitz believes that online collaboration is a largely unexplored market. "Message boards are good for dialogues, blogs are good as soapboxes, and social networks are good for meeting people, but none of those really let you manage relationships," he says. "For people who are online now, the technology is there to give them a chance to connect over their common interests."

But the public still has a shaky idea of wikis. Surveys conducted by the Harris polling organization for Wetpaint show that only 5 percent of adults who go online can define the word "wiki," according to Elowitz. And it's not clear that Wetpaint or any other wiki-focused company has made the technology simple -- or useful -- enough to attract large numbers of users.

The most famous wiki, of course, is Wikipedia -- it's the largest encyclopedia ever written, with 1.2 million articles contributed by more than 1.6 million registered users and policed by approximately 1,000 volunteer administrators. Indeed, Wikipedia has become the 16th-most-trafficked site on the Web; on any given day, about 4 percent of all Internet users stop there, according to Web traffic research firm Alexa.

But while most of Wikipedia's readers are aware that they can edit encyclopedia entries, the average visitor does so very rarely. In fact, a core of around 500 people account for about half of Wikipedia's content -- an indication that the technical process of writing and editing wiki items remains forbidding for the average user.

From the Scout Report on April 27, 2007

Wikyblog 1.4.9 --- http://www.wikyblog.com/ 

A number of people have been intimately involved in blending the worlds of the wiki and the blog together into one efficient and engaging application, and Wikyblog is one of the very fine results of those ruminations. Designed as a piece of open source software, Wikyblog allows users to create their own different data types, and to arrange various fields and variables as they see fit. Visitors can download this software, and also take advantage of the “how-to” section offered on the Wikyblog homepage. This version is compatible with all computers.


Bob Jensen's threads on education technology ---

Proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. Congress ---

How SOPA Would Affect You ---

"The Real SOPA Battle: Innovators vs. Goliath," by James Allworth and Maxwell Wessel, Harvard Business Review Blog, January 18, 2012 --- Click Here

"Wikipedia begins 24-hour shutdown protest," New Zealand Herald, January 19, 2012 ---

Wikipedia has gone 'dark' for 24 hours in protest of US anti-piracy legislation. Photo / Supplied Expand Wikipedia has gone 'dark' for 24 hours in protest of US anti-piracy legislation. Photo / Supplied

Wikipedia went dark, Google blotted out its logo and other popular websites planned protests to voice concern over legislation in the US Congress intended to crack down on online piracy.

Wikipedia tonight shut down the English version of its online encyclopaedia for 24 hours to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate version, the Protect IP Act (PIPA).

Google placed a black redaction box over the logo on its much-visited US home page to draw attention to the bills, while social news site reddit and the popular Cheezburger humour network planned to shut down later in the day.

The draft legislation has won the backing of Hollywood, the music industry, the Business Software Alliance, the National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce.

But it has come under fire from digital rights and free speech organisations for allegedly paving the way for US authorities to shut down websites accused of online piracy, including foreign sites, without due process.

Continued in article

Jensen Copy
This is a classic example of trying to pop a pimple with a sledge hammer. If Congress passes this legislation as proposed it will be a disaster to open sharing as we know it today.

The good news is Wikileaks --- http://wikileaks.org/
I despise the Wikileaks site itself, but the good news is that Congress could not remove Wikileaks from the Internet even if it tried. Wikileaks may fold due to diminished financial support, but an act of Congress cannot shut it down unless there is worldwide cooperation to shut it down, and there will probably be ice fishing in Hell before the U.S. could engineer such cooperation. Similarly, I don't think an act of Congress can shut down Wikipedia or any other open sharing site that moves off shore. Stick that in your ear Rep. Lamar Smith.

"Brake the Internet Pirates:  How to slow down intellectual property theft in the digital era," The Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2012 ---

Wikipedia and many other websites are shutting down today to oppose a proposal in Congress on foreign Internet piracy, and the White House is seconding the protest. The covert lobbying war between Silicon Valley and most other companies in the business of intellectual property is now in the open, and this fight could define—or reinvent—copyright in the digital era.

Everyone agrees, or at least claims to agree, that the illegal sale of copyrighted and trademarked products has become a world-wide, multibillion-dollar industry and a legitimate and growing economic problem. This isn't college kids swapping MP3s, as in the 1990s. Rather, rogue websites set up shop oversees and sell U.S. consumers bootleg movies, TV shows, software, video games, books and music, as well as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, fashion, jewelry and more.

Often consumers think they're buying copies or streams from legitimate retail enterprises, sometimes not. Either way, the technical term for this is theft.

The tech industry says it wants to stop such crimes, but it also calls any tangible effort to do so censorship that would "break the Internet." Wikipedia has never blacked itself out before on any other political issue, nor have websites like Mozilla or the social news aggregator Reddit. How's that for irony: Companies supposedly devoted to the free flow of information are gagging themselves, and the only practical effect will be to enable fraudsters. They've taken no comparable action against, say, Chinese repression.

Meanwhile, the White House let it be known over the weekend in a blog post—how fitting—that it won't support legislation that "reduces freedom of expression" or damages "the dynamic, innovative global Internet," as if this describes the reality of Internet theft. President Obama has finally found a regulation he doesn't like, which must mean that the campaign contributions of Google and the Stanford alumni club are paying dividends.

The House bill known as the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, and its Senate counterpart are far more modest than this cyber tantrum suggests. By our reading they would create new tools to target the worst-of-the-worst black markets. The notion that a SOPA dragnet will catch a stray Facebook post or Twitter link is false.

Under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998, U.S. prosecutors and rights-holders can and do obtain warrants to shut down rogue websites and confiscate their domain names under asset-seizure laws. Such powers stop at the water's edge, however. SOPA is meant to target the international pirates that are currently beyond the reach of U.S. law.

Continued in article

Bob Jensen's threads on the dreaded DMCA ---

January 18, 2012 reply from Bob Jensen

Hi Pat,

The Copyright Trolling Business Model is Most Often a Fraud Model
One disturbing trend is the rise in purchase of companies like failing newspapers by attorneys for pretty much the sole purpose of pretending they will sue. For example, if the Cactus Gulch Daily Sentinel has lousy cash flow prospects, bottom feeders may instead buy the newspaper for almost nothing with a focus on threatening to sue people who put portions, even a single picture from the newspaper's archives, on the Web or in an email message to family.

The copyright trolling buyers may even shut down publishing current articles by the failing newspaper and simply scour the Web daily for people they can threaten to sue for publishing quotations and pictures from the archives.

What is evil is that many of these copyright trolls prey on the weak.
For example, suppose Grandma posts a 1958 newspaper picture of her children at the Cactus Gulch July 4, 1958 parade on her Facebook page. The copyright troll owner of the defunct Cactus Gulch Daily Sentinel will send a threatening letter to her demanding $5,000 immediately or he will sue her for copyright violation. She trembles in fear that if she has to hire an attorney, it will cost her more than $5,000 when hauled into court.

What weak people like Grandma do not know is that more often than this copyright trolling fraudster really has no intent of suing. The reason is that his lawsuit most likely will be thrown out of court if she only copied one old picture from the newspaper, and even if he should win in court this fraudster's damage award may be less than $100. This is how copyright trolls are fraudsters preying on the weak by trying to scare the weak into paying out of fear..

All this may be technically legal, but I still find this copyright trolling business model distasteful.

Look up "Copyright Troll" in Wikipedia when Wikipedia ends its one-day protest of SOPA.

There are quite a few copyright trolling fraudsters out there, some of whom are defrauding other copyright trolls themselves (ha ha)  ---

Bob Jensen

"Ideas of Academic Freedom," by Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed, January 18, 2012 ---

Robert C. Post’s Democracy, Expertise, Academic Freedom, published by Yale University Press, is a succinct and tightly argued book, and its subtitle, “A First Amendment Jurisprudence for the Modern State,” clearly signals a calm sobriety that can't be taken for granted. It covers topics that typically provoke controversy more often than thought.

Academic freedom and the First Amendment come up for discussion, most of the time, when some conflict is under way, with the ideological battle lines already drawn. The editorials on either side write themselves. And that’s to be expected. Knee-jerk reactions are a pretty shabby substitute for civic virtue, but it’s not like you can respond to every dispute in the public sphere by arguing from first principles. The urgent task is to defend a position.

Post, who is dean of the Yale Law School, is not writing in that rut. The arguments in Democracy, Expertise, Academic Freedom were originally presented at the Northwestern University School of Law when he delivered the Julius Rosenthal Lectures there in April 2008. Opening the book, my first move was to check its index for the names of certain culture-war belligerents who were much in the news back then. (You can probably guess which ones.) They are, happily, absent from its pages. Post is thinking about structural questions -- not commenting on recent affairs, as such.

Rather than indulge in the columnist’s privilege of going off on tangents, let me offer a précis of the book, followed by some very brief remarks.

That the First Amendment exists “to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail” is a familiar and venerable argument, originally framed by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. almost a century ago, and invoked in Supreme Court decisions many times since then. The bit in quotations marks just now, for example, is a typical instance from 1969. The formulation has been assessed and contested at great length by legal theorists. Whatever its merits or deficiencies in general, however, the “marketplace of ideas” argument is no help at all in understanding the relationship between the First Amendment and what Post calls “the production of expert knowledge.”

Expert knowledge is produced within disciplines that regulate what counts as knowledge and what doesn’t. Disciplines involve methods, practices, and judgments that make preempt a laissez faire attitude. And that is a good thing. “If a marketplace of ideas model were to be imposed upon Nature or The American Economic Review or The Lancet,” writes Post, “we would rapidly lose track of whatever expertise we possess about the nature of the world.”

There is a complex and constant tension between the need for untrammeled argument in the public sphere, on the one hand, and the disciplinary protocols that constitute expert knowledge.

Continued in article

"An Authoritative Word on Academic Freedom," by Stanley Fish, The New York Times, November 23, 2008 ---

More than a few times in these columns I have tried to deflate the balloon of academic freedom by arguing that it was not an absolute right or a hallowed principle, but a practical and limited response to the particular nature of intellectual work.

Now, in a new book — “For the Common Good: Principles of American Academic Freedom,” to be published in 2009 — two distinguished scholars of constitutional law, Matthew W. Finkin and Robert C. Post, study the history and present shape of the concept and come to conclusions that support and deepen what I have been saying in these columns and elsewhere.

The authors’ most important conclusion is presented early on in their introduction: “We argue that the concept of Academic freedom . . . differs fundamentally from the individual First Amendment rights that present themselves so vividly to the contemporary mind.” The difference is that while free speech rights are grounded in the constitution, academic freedom rights are “grounded . . . in a substantive account of the purposes of higher education and in the special conditions necessary for faculty to fulfill those purposes.”

In short, academic freedom, rather than being a philosophical or moral imperative, is a piece of policy that makes practical sense in the context of the specific task academics are charged to perform. It follows that the scope of academic freedom is determined first by specifying what that task is and then by figuring out what degree of latitude those who are engaged in it require in order to do their jobs.

If the mission of the enterprise is, as Finkin and Post say, “to promote new knowledge and model independent thought,” the “special conditions” necessary to the realization of that mission must include protection from the forces and influences that would subvert newness and independence by either anointing or demonizing avenues of inquiry in advance. Those forces and influences would include trustees, parents, donors, legislatures and the general run of “public opinion,” and the device that provides the necessary protection is called academic freedom. (It would be better if it had a name less resonant with large significances, but I can’t think of one.)

It does not, however, protect faculty members from the censure or discipline that might follow upon the judgment of their peers that professional standards have either been ignored or violated. There is, Finkin and Post insist, “a fundamental distinction between holding faculty accountable to professional norms and holding them accountable to public opinion. The former exemplifies academic freedom: the latter undermines it.”

Holding faculty accountable to public opinion undermines academic freedom because it restricts teaching and research to what is already known or generally accepted.

Holding faculty accountable to professional norms exemplifies academic freedom because it highlights the narrow scope of that freedom, which does not include the right of faculty “to research and publish in any manner they personally see fit.”

Indeed, to emphasize the “personal” is to mistake the nature of academic freedom, which belongs, Finkin and Post declare, to the enterprise, not to the individual. If academic freedom were “reconceptualized as an individual right,” it would make no sense — why should workers in this enterprise have enlarged rights denied to others? — and support for it “would vanish” because that support, insofar as it exists, is for the project and its promise (the production of new knowledge) and not for those who labor within it. Academics do not have a general liberty, only “the liberty to practice the scholarly profession” and that liberty is hedged about by professional norms and responsibilities.

I find this all very congenial. Were Finkin and Post’s analysis internalized by all faculty members, the academic world would be a better place, if only because there would be fewer instances of irresponsible or overreaching teachers invoking academic freedom as a cover for their excesses.

I do, however, have a quarrel with the authors when they turn to the question of what teachers are free or not free to do in the classroom.

Finkin and Post are correct when they reject the neo-conservative criticism of professors who bring into a class materials from disciplines other than the ones they were trained in. The standard, they say, should be “whether material from a seemingly foreign field of study illuminates the subject matter under scrutiny.”

Just so. If I’m teaching poetry and feel that economic or mathematical models might provide a helpful perspective on a poem or body of poems, there is no good pedagogical reason for limiting me to models that belong properly to literary criticism. (I could of course be criticized for not understanding the models I imported, but that would be another issue; a challenge to my competence, not to my morality.)

But of course what the neo-conservative critics of the academy are worried about is not professors who stray from their narrowly defined areas of expertise; they are worried about professors who do so in order to sneak in their partisan preferences under the cover of providing students with supplementary materials. That, I think, is a genuine concern, and one Finkin and Post do not take seriously enough.

Responding to an expressed concern that liberal faculty too often go on about the Iraq War in a course on an entirely unrelated subject, Finkin and Post maintain that there is nothing wrong, for example, with an instructor in English history “who seeks to interest students by suggesting parallels between King George III’s conduct of the Revolutionary War and Bush’s conduct of the war in Iraq.”

But we only have to imagine the class discussion generated by this parallel to see what is in fact wrong with introducing it. Bush, rather than King George, would immediately become the primary reference point of the parallel, and the effort to understand the monarch’s conduct of his war would become subsidiary to the effort to find fault with Bush’s conduct of his war. Indeed, that would be immediately seen by the students as the whole point of the exercise. Why else introduce a contemporary political figure known to be anathema to most academics if you were not inviting students to pile it on, especially in the context of the knowledge that this particular king was out of his mind?

Sure, getting students to be interested in the past is a good thing, but there are plenty of ways to do that without taking the risk (no doubt being courted) that intellectual inquiry will give way to partisan venting. Finkin and Post are right to say that “educational relevance is to be determined . . . by the heuristic purposes and consequences of a pedagogical intervention”; but this intervention has almost no chance of remaining pedagogical; its consequences are predictable, and its purposes are suspect

Still, this is the only part of the book’s argument I am unable to buy. The rest of it is right on target. And you just have to love a book — O.K., I just have to love a book — that declares that while faculty must “respect students as persons,” they are under no obligation to respect the “ideas held by students.” Way to go!


The term "political correctness" and related phrases have a long history --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness#In_the_United_States
However, probably no U.S. scholar is more associated with "political correctness" since than Stanley Fish when he was at Duke University and the phrase "political correctness" with feminist language constraints and liberalism in campus politics --- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Fish

Bob Jensen's threads on freedom of speech and political correctness in higher education are at

"Who Gets to See Published Research? Opponents of a proposed bill say it would work against the open exchange of ideas," by Jennifer Howard, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 22, 2012 ---

The battle over public access to federally financed research is heating up again. The basic question is this: When taxpayers help pay for scholarly research, should those taxpayers get to see the results in the form of free access to the resulting journal articles?

Actions in Washington this month highlight how far from settled the question is, even among publishers. A major trade group, the Association of American Publishers, has thrown its weight behind proposed new legislative limits on requiring public access, while several of its members, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's press, have publicly disagreed with that position.

The White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy just closed a period of public comment on public access to what it called "peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research." The office hasn't set a timetable for what happens now, but its next moves could also determine whether federal mandates that govern public access have much of a future.

In Congress, meanwhile, U.S. Reps. Darrell E. Issa, a Republican of California, and Carolyn B. Maloney, a Democrat of New York, introduced the Research Works Act (HR 3699) last month. The bill would forbid federal agencies to do anything that would result in the sharing of privately published research—even if that research is done with the help of taxpayer dollars—unless the publisher of the work agrees first. That would spell the end of policies such as the National Institutes of Health's public-access mandate, which requires that the results of federally supported research be made publicly available via its PubMed Central database within 12 months of publication.

The publishers' association came out with a strong statement of support for the proposed legislation. Many commercial publishers of research journals, including major players such as Elsevier, belong to the group.

A number of university presses are members of the association's Professional and Scholarly Publishing division, including the presses of MIT, the University of California, and the University of Oxford.

The MIT Press was the first to say it didn't agree with the association's endorsement of the bill. Other academic presses, including California's, have said the same.

The Nature Publishing Group and Digital Science issued a joint statement last week saying that they do not support the Research Works Act. "We seek to enable the open exchange of ideas, especially in scientific communities, in line with the requirements and objectives of relevant stakeholders," the statement said, noting that the Nature group "encourages self-archiving of the author's accepted manuscript" in PubMed Central six months after publication.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes the journal Science, also issued a statement saying it is not in favor of the bill. "We believe the current NIH public-access policy provides an important mechanism for ensuring that the public has access to biomedical research findings," said Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer. "At the same time, the NIH policy provides appropriate support for the intellectual-property rights of publishers who have invested much in science communication."

Both the AAAS and the Nature group are members of the publishers' association.

More Than Words

The debate over mandates is not just administrative and legislative but also rhetorical. In this case, rhetoric does matter. What does "resulting from" federally financed research mean, exactly? Who gets to claim credit for—and control of—research products?

Continued in article

Commercial Scholarly and Academic Journals and Oligopoly Textbook Publishers Are Ripping Off Libraries, Scholars, and Students ---

What is a good formula for balancing creative license with historical accuracy?
Case in Point: A woman with a tattoo on her chin
"She's a Character Who Could Have Stepped Out of Melville or Hawthorne" by Michael Stratford, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 15, 2012 --- 

Jensen Comment
I added this link to Zane's AAA Commons Writing Forum ---

"Marquet Embezzlement Report Reveals Continued High Rate Of Employee Theft For 2011 - Vermont tops list of highest risk states," Market Watch, January 17, 2012 ---
Thank you Caleb Newquist for the heads up.

Marquet International Ltd. announced today that it has released The 2011 Marquet Report On Embezzlement -- its annual study of major embezzlement cases in the United States. The study examined 473 major embezzlement cases active in the US in 2011 -- those with more than $100,000 in reported losses. The 2011 Marquet Report On Embezzlement examined several broad categories related to the white collar fraud phenomenon of employee theft, including:

-- Characteristics of the Schemes

-- Characteristics of the Perpetrators

-- Characteristics of the Victim Organizations

-- Judicial Consequences

Some noteworthy findings from the 2011 study include:

-- The number of major embezzlements dropped only a slight 2% from 2010;

-- Vermont topped the list of states with highest risk for loss due to embezzlement in 2011. Vermont was followed by Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Montana, Virginia, Iowa and Idaho;

-- In 2011, non-profits, including religious organizations, experienced the most embezzlement cases of all industry categories, behind only financial institutions;

-- The average loss was about $750,000 for 2011;

-- The most common embezzlement scheme in 2011 involved the forgery or unauthorized issuance of company checks;

-- Nearly three-quarters of the incidents in 2011 were committed by employees who held finance & accounting positions;

-- The average scheme lasted nearly 5 years;

-- Gambling continues to appear to be a motivating factor in some embezzlement cases; and,

-- Nearly two-thirds of all incidents involved female perpetrators in 2011.

"Unfortunately, 2011 was another banner year for employee theft in the United States, experiencing only a slight drop in frequency from the frenetic pace set in 2010," said Christopher T. Marquet, CEO of Marquet International. "Employee theft is not going away any time soon." The study also reported some conclusions Marquet has derived by combining the data from past four years:

-- Perpetrators typically begin their embezzlement schemes in their early 40s;

-- By a significant margin, embezzlers are most likely to be individuals who hold financial positions within organizations;

-- The Financial Services industry suffers the greatest losses from major embezzlements;

-- Vermont, Virginia and Florida are among the states with the highest risk for loss due to embezzlement;

-- Women are more likely to embezzle on a large scale than men;

-- Men embezzle significantly more than women per scheme;

-- Gambling is a clear motivating factor in driving some major embezzlement cases; and,

-- Only about 5 percent of major embezzlers have a prior criminal history.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
Vermonters avoid the highest taxes among states by not reporting embezzlement income.

New Hampshirers avoid taxes by voting for 300+ state legislators with only a one-word vocabulary --- "No!"

Mainers avoid taxes by going on tax free welfare.

"Welfare recipients outnumber taxpayers:  That's the situation Maine faces, and perhaps other states as well," Charleston Daily Mail, December 21, 2011 ---

Paul LePage, the Republican governor of Maine, mentioned an uncomfortable truth in a radio address this month: Maine has more welfare recipients than income tax payers.

Democrats challenged the accuracy of this assertion.

The Bangor Daily News fact-checked LePage and discovered that 445,074 Mainers paid state income tax, while 453,194 received some sort of state aid.

In Maine, Medicaid, welfare, food stamps and subsidies for education have a combined enrollment of 660,000.

Adjusting for overlap reduces the number to 453,194 - or 8,120 more people on state assistance than there are state income taxpayers in Maine.

What is situation in West Virginia?

Nationally, only 53 percent of the nation lives in a household that pays federal income tax.

While just about every worker has taxes withheld, many people have the entire amount refunded at tax time. With child tax credits and earned income tax credits, some people get more money from filing a return than they paid in.

But 30 percent of Americans live in households that receive some sort of public assistance that is means tested, meaning a person must have an income low enough to qualify for the aid.

Another depressing thought is that nearly half the "taxpayers" in the United States pay no federal or state income taxes.

Attribution of an American Accounting Position to One Published Article in an AAA Journal

One of the problems among journalists and bloggers is that they sometimes extrapolate attribution. And we, as professors, are sometimes sloppy in our writing. Ed Ketz has always been up front that his grumpy blogs should not be extrapolated as being opinions of his colleagues or his employer (Penn State). We generally take it for granted than an opinion or conclusion in any article of an AAA journal is not an official position of the AAA.

However we probably need to better communicate what we take for granted. For example, the AAA only rarely takes official positions on articles it publishes in its journals.

"AAA Warns: Watch Your Language on Earnings Reports," The AccountingWeb, January 18, 2012 ---

. . .

Complaints about such corporate self-congratulation and optimism are a common feature of securities lawsuits – but also a hotly debated one, with some judges dismissing expansive or optimistic language cited by plaintiffs as immaterial and defendants labeling it mere "puffery."

Yet now, a study recently published in an accounting journal finds that, puffery or not, such language makes a major difference in whether or not shareholders initiate lawsuits against companies. According to the current issue of The Accounting Review, published by the American Accounting Association (AAA), research shows that "sued firms use substantially more optimistic language in their earnings announcements than do non-sued firms." Managers, the study concludes, "can reduce litigation risk by dampening the tone of their earnings announcements either by decreasing their use of positive language or by tempering their optimism with statements that are less favorable."

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
I plan to post this to the AAA Commons Writing Forum commenced by our AECM friend Zane Swanson ---

Bob Jensen's helpers for writers ---


"How to Write a Lot for the Sciences," by Heather M. Whitney, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 17, 2012 ---

I’ve often been frustrated by the how-to-succeed-in-academia advice that’s out there. To be honest, a sizable portion of it is not applicable to my work in science. Grad school was an especially dim time. Most of the advice doled out online and in other venues was along the lines of “just write! write! write!” and I would sigh and ask myself, “but what about getting productive at planning and doing experiments?”

But lately I’ve had a bit of a change of heart. Maybe there is something I can glean from the advice on writing. I read a fascinating post by Holly Tucker, a historian of science and medicine, in which she details the practice of her writing group. Tucker describes how the book How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing changed her point of view on writing and has led to a greater productivity in this slice of her job.

I figured, if a historian of science can get something out of this, maybe so can I. So I purposed with a faculty friend of mine and we both read the book over the holiday break.

I won’t give all the details of the book here, but in short, the author, Paul Silvia, advises that you write and meet with an accountability group regularly. He claims that if you make appointments with yourself to write, and give these appointments the level of importance that you give other items in your schedule (such as teaching a class), you will see productivity.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
I plan to post this to the AAA Commons Writing Forum commenced by our AECM friend Zane Swanson ---

Bob Jensen's helpers for writers ---


"JSTOR Tests Free, Read-Only Access to Some Articles," by Jennifer Howard, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 13, 2012 ---

It’s about to get a little easier—emphasis on “a little”—for users without subscriptions to tap JSTOR’s enormous digital archive of journal articles. In the coming weeks, JSTOR will make available the beta version of a new program, Register & Read, which will give researchers read-only access to some journal articles, no payment required. All users have to do is to sign up for a free “MyJSTOR” account, which will create a virtual shelf on which to store the desired articles.

But there are limits. Users won’t be able to download the articles; they will be able to access only three at a time, and there will be a minimum viewing time frame of 14 days per article, which means that a user can’t consume lots of content in a short period. Depending on the journal and the publisher, users may have an option to pay for and download an article if they choose.

To start, the program will feature articles from 70 journals. Included in the beta phase are American Anthropologist, the American Historical Review, Ecology, Modern Language Review, PMLA, College English, the Journal of Geology, the Journal of Political Economy, Film Quarterly, Representations, and the American Journal of Psychology .

The 7o journals chosen “represent approximately 18 percent of the annual turn-away traffic on JSTOR,” the organization said in an announcement previewing Register & Read. “Once we evaluate how the beta is going, including any impact on publishers’ sales of single articles, and make any needed initial adjustments to the approach, we expect to release hundreds more journals into the program.”

Every year, JSTOR said, it turns away almost 150 million individual attempts to gain access to articles. “We are committed to expanding access to scholarly content to all those who need it,” the group said. Register & Read is one attempt to do that.

In September 2011, JSTOR also opened up global access to its Early Journal Content. According to Heidi McGregor, a spokeswoman for the Ithaka group, JSTOR’s parent organization, there have been 2.35 million accesses of the Early Journal Content from September 2011 through December 2011. “About 50% of this usage is coming from users we know are at institutions that participate in JSTOR (e.g. we recognize their IP address), and the other 50% is not,” she said in an e-mail. ”We absolutely consider this to be a success. In the first four months after launch, we are seeing over 1 million accesses to this content by people who would not have had access previously. This is at the core of our mission, and we’re thrilled with this result.  The Register & Read beta is an exciting next step that we are taking, working closely with our publisher partners who own this content.”

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
Most colleges pay for library subscription access to JSTOR by students, faculty, and staff. As an emeritus professor at Trinity University I've been able to access JSTOR since I retired in 2006.

One search route I commonly take is to first find a reference to an article in MAAW ---
Thank you Jim Martin for this tremendous open sharing MAAW site.

Then most often I download the article from JSTOR unless the publisher provides access either for free or because I subscribe to the journal in question. But even if I have a current subscription to a journal such as The Accounting Review, the publisher of TAR does not have online archives going back nearly as far as JSTOR. So if I want a 1971 TAR article I will go to JSTOR. TAR only has online archives going back to 1999. TAR commenced publishing journal articles in 1925.

It's worthwhile to first check the publisher's site before going to JSTOR. For example, the free archived files (since 1974) for the Accounting Historians Journal are better at the AHJ site than at the JSTOR site ---

Bob Jensen's search helpers are at

Life After College Roadmap --- http://www.mint.com/blog/how-to/life-after-college-roadmap-012012/

"Great Apes Make Sophisticated Decisions: Research Suggests That Great Apes Are Capable of Calculating the Odds Before Taking Risks," Science Daily, December 29, 2011 ---
Thank you Jim Mahar for the heads up.

Jensen Comment
I wish we could say the same thing about teenagers who become parents before graduating from high school

Critical Thinking Badges for Brains That Do Not Have Course Content Competency
"Online Course Provider, StraighterLine, to Offer Critical-Thinking Tests to Students," by Jeff Selingo, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 19, 2012 --- Click Here

As alternatives to the college diploma have been bandied about recently, one question always seems to emerge: How do you validate badges or individual classes as a credential in the absence of a degree?

One company that has been hailed by some as revolutionizing introductory courses might have an answer.

The company, StraighterLine, announced on Thursday that beginning this fall it will offer students access to three leading critical-thinking tests, allowing them to take their results to employers or colleges to demonstrate their proficiency in certain academic areas.

The tests—the Collegiate Learning Assessment, sponsored by the Council for Aid to Education, and the Proficiency Profile, from the Educational Testing Service—each measure critical thinking and writing, among other academic areas. The iSkills test, also from ETS, measures the ability of a student to navigate and critically evaluate information from digital technology.

Until now, the tests were largely used by colleges to measure student learning, but students did not receive their scores. That’s one reason that critics of the tests have questioned their effectiveness since students have little incentive to do well.

Burck Smith, the founder and chief executive of StraighterLine, which offers online, self-paced introductory courses, said on Thursday that students would not need to take classes with StraighterLine in order to sit for the tests. But he hopes that, for students who do take both classes and tests, the scores on the test will help validate StraighterLine courses.

StraighterLine doesn’t grant degrees and so can’t be accredited. It depends on accredited institutions to accept its credits, which has not always been an easy task for the company.

“For students looking to get a leg up in the job market or getting into college,” Mr. Smith said, “this will give them a way to show they’re proficient in key academic areas.”

Jensen Comment

Jensen Comment

College diplomas might be obtained in three different scenarios:

  1. Traditional College Courses
    Students take onsite or online courses that are graded by their instructors.
  2. Competency-Based College Courses
    Students take onsite or online courses and are then given competency-based examinations.
    Examples include the increasingly popular Western Governors University and the Canada's Chartered Accountancy School of Business (CASB).
  3. Competency-Based College Courses That Never Meet or Rarely Meet
    Students might study from course materials and videos in classes that do not meet or rarely meet with instructors.
    In the 1900s the University of Chicago gave degrees to students who took only examinations to pass courses.
    In current times BYU teaches the first two accounting courses from variable speed video disks and then administers competency-based examinations.
    The University of New Hampshire now is in the process of developing a degree program for students who only competency-based examinations to pass courses.

Recently, there are increasingly popular certificates of online "attendance" in courses that do not constitute college credits toward diplomas. MIT is providing increasingly popular certificates ---
"Will MITx Disrupt Higher Education?" by Robert Talbert, Chronicle of Higher Education, December 20, 2011 ---
There are no admission requirements or prerequisites to enroll in these online courses. Presumably the only tests of competency might be written or oral examinations of potential employers. For example, if knowledge of Bessel Functions is required on the job, a potential employer might determine in one way or another that the student has a competency in Bessel Functions ---

In all the above instances, a student's transcript is based upon course content whether or not the student takes courses and/or competency-based examinations in the content of those courses.

StraighterLine's new certificates based upon "Critical-Thinking Tests" is an entirely different concept. Presumably the certificates no longer are rooted on knowledge of content. Rather these are certificates based upon critical thinking skills in selected basic courses such as a writing skills course.

In my opinion these will be a much harder sell in the market. Whereas a potential employer can assess whether an applicant has the requisite skills in something like Bessel Functions, how does an employer or college admissions officer verify that StraightLine's "Critical-Thinking Tests" are worth a diddly crap and, if so, what does passing such tests mean in terms of job skills?

Thus far I'm not impressed with Critical Thinking Certificates unless they are also rooted on course content apart from "thinking" alone.

Bob Jensen's threads on the BYU Variable Speed Video Courses ---

Bob Jensen's threads on assessment ---

Bob Jensen's threads on open sharing courses. lectures, videos, tutorials, and course materials from prestigious universities ---

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

Bob Jensen's threads on higher education controversies ---

"Feed the Pig: Great Time to Save Money [INFOGRAPHIC]," AICPA, January 2012 ---

Jensen Comment
I know that the AICPA's "pig" depicts a piggie bank, but I still think "Feed the Pig" is a bad name for a personal finance helper site. A better name would be "Feed Your Piggie Bank: Helpers for Saving and Investment"

Bob Jensen's personal finance helpers ---


"My Financial Mis-Education," by Lee Bessette, Inside Higher Ed, January 16, 2012 ---

Jensen Comment
This reminds me of when I gave my daughter a credit card (the billings came to me) when she left home as a first-year student at the University of Texas. As I recall I did say this card was for "emergencies," but then she started discovering all sorts of emergencies to the tune of nearly $1,000 per month even though I was directly paying for her tuition, room and board, car insurance, etc. One type of "emergency" was rather amusing until I put an end to such amusement. At Christmas time she lavished me with rather expensive gifts that, of course, she'd charged on her credit card.

The need for financial literacy and elementary tax accounting in the common core of both high school and college ---

Bob Jensen's personal finance helpers ---

Computing from Clouds Versus Computing from Dirt

All isn't lost if your young children can play with the clay.
"Fake iPad 2s hit more major retailers," by Darcy Wintonyk, ctvbc.ca, January 18, 2012 --- Click Here
Thank you David Fordham for the heads up.

Walmart and London Drugs say that fake Apple iPad 2s made of clay are also appearing on their store shelves, a day after electronic giants Future Shop and Best Buy revealed they are launching a major fraud investigation into the scam.

In most of the cases, the popular tablet computers are bought for cash and then swapped out for a piece of modelling clay. The boxes are then re-wrapped and returned to the store, only to end up back on the shelves and resold to other unsuspecting customers.

Future Shop and Best Buy say as many as 10 fake models were sold in their Metro Vancouver locations. A Victoria resident wrote to say she purchased one of the fraudulent models at a Vancouver Island Best Buy on New Year's Day.

Since CTV broadcast its exclusive story about the frauds on Monday, more victims have come forward and two more major retailers have confirmed they're also dealing with the fake products. London Drugs said it is aware of four incidents in the past month. Walmart officials haven't provided an exact tally, but officials said they are investigating fewer than 10 cases.

Scam artists are taking advantage of the popularity of Apple's latest offering, says Future Shop spokesperson Elliott Chun.

"It's really sad that people stoop to these low levels to take advantage of really hot sellers. As you probably know, tablets were the number one touted gift items for the holidays this year," he said.

Dayna Chabot purchased a bogus 32-gigabyte iPad 2 at Walmart in Langley, south of Vancouver, on Jan. 5.

She recalls being shocked opening the "perfectly sealed" box with her boyfriend once they got home -- and seeing a block of clay instead.

"It was all sealed properly and everything. It was the shape of an iPad. They even had a piece of clay where the charger went and everything. Like, they knew what they were doing," she told CTV's Steele on Your Side in a telephone interview.

Chabot said she was immediately worried about how the retail chain would react when she brought back a hunk of clay that she paid $600 for.

"I understood that it could have easily been us that did it and went back. But they were really good about it at Walmart. They were all just kind of baffled," she said.

Chabot was given a full refund within 20 minutes after speaking with a manager. Her experience is quite different from Surrey resident Mark Sandhu, who said he was treated like a criminal by a manager when he tried to return his fake device to Future Shop on Boxing Day. He has since been given a full refund, an apology and a new iPad 2 after coming forward to CTV with his story.

For its part, Apple says it is part of the investigation, but has refused to comment on any of the frauds.

Both Walmart and London Drugs say the shrink-wrapping on the bogus products was professionally done, so the items did not look tampered with.

Future Shop and Best Buy said their policies on returning wrapped tablet computers changed in early January because of the frauds.

"We still give them the benefit of the doubt that they're coming in for a proper return or exchange … and then we will physically open it up right in front of them as well and make sure every component is there," Chun said.

Chun said in the future all iPads sold from Future Shop's stores will only come factory sealed, direct from Apple.

London Drugs is also adjusting its refund procedures for computers in a bid to prevent any more incidents. Returned computers will now be opened in front of the customer.

Continued in article

Jensen Comment
Makes you wonder a bit about getting a bigger batch of clay in your new wide-screen HDTV set. And you had better drive your new car before buying it to be certain the engine is not a box of clay.

Sadly, some returns will become more seriously hard to detect in terms of fraud. You might turn on your new computer and later discover that some of the premium components that you paid extra for (such as a bigger hard drive and more memory) have been replaced with cheap parts. A sales return clerk can turn on the computer to see if it turns on but that clerk is not likely to know how to search for all the premium options.

"Lockdown:  The coming war on general-purpose computing," by Cory Doctorow,
This article is based on a keynote speech to the Chaos Computer Congress in Berlin, Dec. 2011.

"The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives," by Eric Jackson, Forbes, January 2, 2012 ---

Sydney Finkelstein, the Steven Roth Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, published “Why Smart Executives Fail 8 years ago.

In it, he shared some of his research on what over 50 former high-flying companies – like Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Rubbermaid, and Schwinn – did to become complete failures.  It turns out that the senior executives at the companies all had 7 Habits in common.  Finkelstein calls them the Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives.

These traits can be found in the leaders of current failures like Research In Motion (RIMM), but they should be early-warning signs (cautionary tales) to currently unbeatable firms like Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), and Amazon.com (AMZN).  Here are the habits, as Finkelstein described in a 2004 article:

Continued in article
Summary from The Unknown Professor on January 4, 2012

  1. They see themselves (and their organizations) dominating their environment
  2. They identify so completely with the organization that there is no clear boundary between their personal interests and their corporation’s interests
  3. They think they have all the answers
  4. They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them
  5. They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image
  6. They underestimate obstacles
  7. They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past
    "I've known deans that embody 2, 3, 4, and 6. How about you?"
    The Unknown Professor

The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives," by Eric Jackson, Forbes, January 2, 2012 ---

Sydney Finkelstein, the Steven Roth Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, published “Why Smart Executives Fail 8 years ago.

In it, he shared some of his research on what over 50 former high-flying companies – like Enron, Tyco, WorldCom, Rubbermaid, and Schwinn – did to become complete failures.  It turns out that the senior executives at the companies all had 7 Habits in common.  Finkelstein calls them the Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives.

These traits can be found in the leaders of current failures like Research In Motion (RIMM), but they should be early-warning signs (cautionary tales) to currently unbeatable firms like Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG), and Amazon.com (AMZN).  Here are the habits, as Finkelstein described in a 2004 article:

Continued in article
Summary from The Unknown Professor on January 4, 2012

  1. They see themselves (and their organizations) dominating their environment
  2. They identify so completely with the organization that there is no clear boundary between their personal interests and their corporation’s interests
  3. They think they have all the answers
  4. They ruthlessly eliminate anyone who isn’t completely behind them
  5. They are consummate spokespersons, obsessed with the company image
  6. They underestimate obstacles
  7. They stubbornly rely on what worked for them in the past
    "I've known deans that embody 2, 3, 4, and 6. How about you?"
    The Unknown Professor

Jensen Comment
This may be extending Sydney Finkelstein's observations about corporate executives a bridge too far  (into the Academy) since there are so many differences between being a CEO of a corporation versus being a middle manager in a university. Firstly, the powers of deans has been greatly diminished over the past 50 years. When I was at Michigan State University in the late 1960s, our Dean met what he thought was a famous professor at a conference and hired him on the spot. It turned out that this was another (pretty good) professor with the same name. Such a mistake could not happen these days where since faculty have increased powers (in committee) regarding faculty hiring and firing.

Deans are only middle managers who must share authority with higher levels of university governance. The days of deans "ruthlessly eliminated anyone who is not completely behind them" certainly does not exist today and probably never existed under tenure protections. When I was on the faculty of Florida State University we had a real pain-in-the-ass in the Management Department who went so far as to haul our dean into state court for a mole-hill issue. The dean won the case in court but could not "ruthlessly fire" that tenured professor who continued to be a pain in the tail for both our dean and most of our faculty colleagues.

If a new dean was a previous corporate executive, she or he might "underestimate obstacles" for a short while, but my hunch is that they soon learn to respect obstacles that make the Academy different from Exxon. My experience with deans from industry are quite the opposite. Sometimes they have too much respect for obstacles that should be knocked down.

In industry, a corporate executive raises money from marketing, cost efficiencies, relations with bankers, etc. In the Academy a dean raises money from alumni, outside business fund raising, relations with the University's top brass, and having students and faculty blogging nice things about the college, their professors, and their deans. I don't think any dean who is a former corporate executive "stubbornly relies on what worked for them in the past." Deans just aren't that stupid.

I think Sydney Finkelstein made some great observations about corporate executives. I don't think these observations can be successfully extrapolated to any dean that I've had the pleasure to work for over the years.

There may be some causes of spectacularly unsuccessful deans, but these are most likely due to not being enough like successful corporate executives.

"The Globalized Recipe for Education," by Paula Marantz Cohen, The American Scholar ---
Thank you Ramesh Fernando for the heads up.

Andrew Kipnis in his provocative book, Governing Educational Desire: Culture, Politics, and Schooling in China, addresses what he refers to as “educational desire”—the extreme interest in educational achievement that crosses China’s class and regional lines. He argues against the idea that Western nations are the models for innovation in China, noting that the turn toward testing and teacher audit, central to the Chinese system and now being pursued in the United States, “suggests that the diffusion of cultural models from the West has been overemphasized.”

Kipnis’s book shows how China and the United States are engaged in a true global exchange in which both countries are adapting elements of the other’s educational system. The Chinese have relied on examinations to determine rank, dating back to the earliest dynasties. The elite in these societies were expected to pass civil service exams that required extensive knowledge of Confucian texts. The form, if not the content, of this method of education, continued through the Maoist period, when children were expected to memorize Mao’s Little Red Book. The method has since been accommodated to the current gaokao, the rigorous test that determines whether a student can go to college, which sifts them according to their scores into a strict hierarchy of universities.

Teachers are audited regularly for their ability to prepare students for this test. Classes are constructed so as to determine which teachers can raise student scores. This is done by mixing weaker and stronger students in the same class and then gauging how they perform on yearly exams. Class size is considered less important than teachers, who serve as exemplars both for students and, if their students perform at a high level, for other teachers as well. As Kipnis notes, this model finds echoes in the “No Child Left Behind” policy, and in other recent efforts in the United States to test student achievement and audit teacher performance.

Continued in article

The euro was a noble experiment, but it has failed. Instead of wasting more money on expanding the system's scope and developing ever larger rescue funds, it would be better for the EU and others to think about how best to revert to a system of individual currencies.
Robert Barro, "An Exit Strategy From the Euro The euro can be phased out the same way Europe's individual currencies were. The bonds of troubled member states would benefit as a result," The Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2012 ---

January 10, 2012 reply from Glen Gray

I predicted the demise of the Euro in 1985 which I believe was 14 years before the Euro actually came into existence. I was at a Johnson Wax (which I think is now called Johnson & Son) factory in Amsterdam. They make soaps, shampoos, shaving cream (such as Edge shaving cream), and similar items.

They were trying to improve the productivity of the factory. Productivity was particularly important since it is nearly impossible to lay people off, so they want to keep everybody busy. The big issue was that they had to reconfigure the assembly lines every two weeks and while they were doing this, many employees had nothing to do. One of the reasons why the assembly lines had to be reconfigured was Germans would only buy shampoo in cube shaped bottles that were of a particular capacity and French would only buy shampoo in cylinder-shaped bottles of a different capacity (or I may have that reversed--1985 was a long time ago).

I had a premonition then and there that in the future the E.U. and the euro were doomed. If you can't agree on shampoo bottles, you are doomed.

"What the Heck is Research Anyway?" by Brent Roberts, The Hardest Science, December 20, 2011 ---

Jensen Comment
This is pretty much what we teach students about research if we're both practical and idealists. But it's a nice summary.

If I were to add something to this it would be examples of how some of the greatest discoveries in the world came about by accident. It might also be nice to compare the lazy Aristotle with the ambitious Galileo.

Followed by an upskirt fantasy video that got my attention.

"The Hidden Dangers of Low Interest Rates," by David Cay Johnston,  Reuters, January 10, 2012 ---:

The Fed’s campaign to hold short-term interest rates near zero is a loser for taxpayers. A rise in rates would also burden taxpayers, but it would come with a benefit for those who save.

Low rates keep alive the banks that the government considers too big to fail and reduce the cost of servicing the burgeoning federal debt. Low rates also come at a cost, cutting income to older Americans and to pension funds. This forces retirees to eat into principal, may put more pressure on welfare programs for the elderly, and will probably require the government to spend money to fulfill pension guarantees.

Raising interest rates shifts the costs and benefits, increasing the risks that mismanaged banks will collapse and diverting more taxpayers’ money to service federal debt. On the other hand, higher interest rates mean that savers, both individual and in pension funds, enjoy the fruits of their prudence.

No matter which way interest rates go, taxpayers face dangers. The question is where we want to take our losses. For my money, saving the mismanaged mega-banks should be the last priority and savers the first. Of course breaking up the big banks or letting them fail also imposes costs and low interest rates benefit many Americans, though mostly those with top credit scores, but policy involves choices and rescuing banks from their own mistakes and subtly siphoning wealth from the prudent is corrosive to the ethical and social fabric.


The federal government paid $454 billion in interest on its debt in 2011. That is the equivalent of all the individual income taxes paid last year through the first three weeks of June

If rates return to, say, 6.64 percent, the level they were in 2000, one year’s interest costs would equal the individual income taxes for all of 2011 plus the first few weeks of 2012.

Last week , rates took a step in that direction. The yield on the 10-year bond, a benchmark for other interest rates, jumped to 3.3 percent, from 2.57 percent in early November, raising the government’s cost of borrowing in that sale by one fourth.

The average maturity of federal bills, notes and bonds is just five years, with just 7 percent of debt financed for more than 10 years, the equivalent of an adjustable rate mortgage with no upside limit.


The low interest rates since the financial crisis already have imposed a cost on the prudent people who saved for the future, both those who saved as individuals and those who put their money in pension funds.

Banks are paying less than one percent interest on savings, which means rates are negative in real terms, forcing retirees to dig into their nest eggs or cut spending.

Across the country, some fundraisers have told me of benefactors who called to say that expected bequests would not be forthcoming because they had been forced to dig into their savings.

Tax returns, too, show a disturbing, if logical, trend toward less saving. The share of income from taxable interest fell from 3 percent in 1999 to 2.2 percent in 2009, the latest year for which tax return data are available.

More troubling is that the number of taxpayers grew by more than 13 million over those years, while those reporting any taxable interest fell from 67.2 million to 57.8 million. The share of taxpayers earning interest plummeted from 52.9 percent to 44.1 percent.