Tidbits on March 16, 2005
Bob Jensen at Trinity University 

For earlier editions of New Bookmarks go to http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/bookurl.htm 
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Bob Jensen's home page is at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/




March 16 --- Happy St. Urho Day
Some say the truth is stranger than fiction. They obviously have never heard about St. Urho, (pronounced oorlho) the patron ''saint'' of Finland.  Not to be outdone by St. Patrick's Day celebrations on March 17, St. Urho's Day is celebrated the day before, giving participants an additional 24 hours to pursue the fun. While cynics may claim the holiday is bogus, most folks good-naturedly join in the festivities. Although St. Urho's Day originated in Minnesota, every state in the union recognizes St. Urho's Day.  As with most legends, the origins of St. Urho's Day are unclear, and details of his reputed heroics freely change in the telling. There is a traditional story and more modern versions, but by most accounts, the holiday has been celebrated for only about 50 years. To add ''authenticity'' to the tale, a statue of St. Urho stands in Menahga, Minn. He holds a pitchfork with a giant grasshopper impaled in its tines and a plaque below recounts this bizarre folk tale:  A long, long time ago, before the last glacial period when the climate was warmer, wild grapes grew in profusion in the country known as Finland. Archaeologists made this discovery by studying scratches on the bones of giant bears that once roamed Northern Europe. The Finnish farmers were threatened by a plague of grasshoppers  Our brave young hero, St. Urho, came to the rescue, waved his pitchfork and in a loud, threatening voice, commanded the grasshoppers, ''Heinasirkka, heinasirkka, menetaalta hiiten'' which in English loosely translates to ''Grasshopper, grasshopper, get outta here, now.'' And like St. Patrick, who is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland, St. Urho banished the grasshoppers from the vineyards of Finland and saved the country from ruin.
Kathy Antoniotti "St. Urho Day, fact or fiction," McCall.com, March 14, 2005 --- http://snipurl.com/StUrho 


Some college songs to sing on St. Orho Day
"March Madness," by Mark J. Drozdowski, March 11, 2005 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/views/march_madness 

I also noticed that some songs reference other schools. Penn mentions Harvard's and Yale's colors, while neighboring Swarthmore, in its memorable "Hip, Hip, Hip, for Old Swarthmore," adds Cornell and Haverford to the mix. Lafayette promises to "dig Lehigh's grave both wide and deep, wide and deep," and "put tombstones at her head and feet, head and feet."  But Illinois manages to offend the most with this ballad:

     Don't send my boy to Harvard, a dying mother said,
     Don't send my boy to Michigan, I'd rather he were dead.
     But send my boy to Illinois, 'tis better than Cornell,
     and rather than Chicago, I would see my boy in hell.

Many songs reveal their age. Cal Tech implores its football team to "smash the line of our old enemy," yet no longer fields a football team. The only things they smash these days are atoms. Harvard students still play "Ten Thousand Men of Harvard" even though the university now enrolls more women than men.  


The Academic Bill of Rights Poster Child Can't Be Found
A criminology course at the University of Northern Colorado is the setting for one of David Horowitz's favorite stories.  As he tells it, a required essay on a mid-term exam was for students to "explain why George Bush is a war criminal." A student submitted an essay on why Saddam Hussein was a war criminal and she received an F.  But a number of blogs and columns have noted in recent days that neither the student nor the professor can be found. Links set up from Horowitz's writings on the subject to Colorado legislative hearings where he says the incident was discussed feature no discussion of the incident.  Mano Singham, director of Case Western Reserve University's Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education, spent some trying to track down the course and the student, and wrote about the experience for The Plain Dealer, finding no evidence of any such incident at the university in question or in Colorado legislative records.  "So does this mysterious professor actually exist? Did this incident actually happen? It is hard to say no for certain, since that involves proving a negative. But there are some characteristics of urban legends that this story shares, in particular the absence of details (names, places, dates) that enable one to pin it down to anything concrete," Singham wrote. "Given that Horowitz and his group have shown no scruples in the past about naming people in academia that they dislike, their sudden coyness in this particular case is a little surprising."  Many professors believe that the "Academic Bill of Rights," proposed by Horowitz and his supporters in many state legislatures, would encourage harassment of professors and monitoring of their views. But Horowitz has repeatedly justified the legislation by pointing to examples -- like the alleged Northern Colorado student -- to say that legislation is needed.  A good compilation of the online discussions and evidence in the case was posted Friday on the blog Cliopatria by Jonathan Dresner, an assistant professor of East Asian history at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Dresner found it "particularly odd" that "Horowitz's own site has links which appear to be citations but which go to hearings in which the testimony in question clearly doesn't appear."
Scott Jaschik, "The Poster Child Who Can't Be Found," Inside Higher Ed, March 14, 2005 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/insider/the_poster_child_who_can_t_be_found 

Because while a Northern Colorado spokeswoman acknowledged Monday that a complaint had been filed, she also said that the test question was not the one described by Horowitz, the grade was not an F, and there were clearly non-political reasons for whatever grade was given. And the professor who has been held up as an example of out-of-control liberal academics? In an interview last night, he said that he's a registered Republican.  In addition, the university was able to directly refute other statements made by Horowitz supporters. For instance, Students for Academic Freedom, a group that backs Horowitz, on Monday posted an articleon its Web site (which was then widely posted by conservatives on other Web sites) with the headline "University of Northern Colorado Story Confirmed." The article, among other things, said that the professor in the course had been unable to produce any copies of the test questions. But the university has had the test the entire time -- and the question isn't the way it has been described by Horowitz.
Scott Jaschik, "Tattered Poster Child," Inside Higher Ed, March 15, 2005 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/insider/tattered_poster_child 


APR (Academic Performance Rate)
Just another NCAA sham that allows big-bucks schools to ignore top athlete scholarship

We should perhaps celebrate any change in popular culture that appears to support academic success, even if the motives of the NCAA focus more on commercial viability than academic integrity. At the same time, we should always recognize the fundamental conflict that exists between the all-too-human demand for competitive sports excellence that drives the NCAA and the less visible and less intense requirement that our students be students, even when they serve athletics, a concern of faculty and many other observers. Some institutions, more interested in the competition than the student, will likely find ways to evade much of this legislation through soft courses and majors, overly zealous academic advising and similar maneuvers. At the same time, a few of the semi-pro players in high school may decide that they should skip the collegiate experience altogether.  One thing is for sure, the NCAA franchising operation will continue its highly compensated, cautious and commercially successful management of the entertainment quality of the college sports enterprise, and the academics will find a way to adjust.
John V. Lombardi, "Reality Check," Inside Higher Ed, March 14, 2005 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/views/reality_check__3 

Now if we could only have the same success in the male NFL, NBA, NHL, and professional baseball.
But even as they increasingly look to play in the WNBA, college women tend to view professional basketball not as a final destination, but as one component of a life that will continue beyond the court. It doesn't pay big, so many female athletes play for the love of the sport and as a way to fund graduate or medical school.
Amy Merrick, "Stepping Stone," The Wall Street Journal,  March 14, 2005; Page R8 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111038775601474739,00.html?mod=todays_us_the_journal_report 


An 83-year history project at Princeton University
In 1943, Princeton University decided to publish the complete papers of Thomas Jefferson. Compiling his notes and letters in chronological order and publishing them in bound volumes, the Papers of Thomas Jefferson project now is up to Jefferson's 1801 inauguration, with eight years of his presidency and 25 years of his life still ahead.  The project is taking so long that Monticello, Jefferson's Virginia estate, has taken over editing the papers from the third president's retirement years. Still, the two teams say they won't wrap up the project until perhaps 2026, taking 83 years, which is as long as Jefferson lived . . . It certainly wasn't supposed to take this long. A congressional commission, at the height of World War II, proposed publishing Jefferson's papers and hired Julian Boyd, a Princeton historian, as the first editor. Mr. Boyd, who brought the project to New Jersey, predicted it would take 15 or 20 years.  But "he had no idea how many documents would be assembled" -- 70,000 photocopies from 900 libraries and collections, says Barbara Oberg, the current editor, who arrived seven years ago in the middle of Vol. 28, just as the project was reaching the end of Jefferson's term as secretary of state.
June Kronholz, "Why a Life's Work Is Taking Princeton So Long to Document:  Unfinished Jefferson Project Is Now in Its 63rd Year; Yale's Ben Franklin Slog," The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2005; Page A1--- http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111085059678779477,00.html?mod=todays_us_page_one 


Bye Bye Hank!
At the helm of American International Group Inc., Maurice Greenberg was under mounting pressure. Regulators were applying increasing heat over a transaction AIG did with a unit of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., a deal they considered possibly misleading to AIG investors.  Mr. Greenberg, known as Hank, resisted the pressure with the same tenacity he displayed in nearly four decades running what has become the world's largest insurer. But then, in the past week, came the tipping point. The regulators -- relying on nearly 1,000 pages of e-mails and phone-call records -- gave AIG's independent directors an analysis providing new details of the deal and Mr. Greenberg's role in it. And some of that was in conflict with or missing from his statements on the matter.
Monica Langley and Theo Francis, "How Investigations of AIG Led To Retirement of Longtime CEO:  Spitzer's and SEC's Close Look At Big Trove of Documents Put Pressure on the Chief Greenberg: 'I'll Get Going Now'," The Wall Street Journal,  March 15, 2005; Page A1 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111084108330679173,00.html?mod=todays_us_page_one

Also from The New York Times --- Video: The Times's Gretchen Morgenson

How did AIG use insurance contracts to sell accounting fraud?
Steven Gluckstern and Michael Palm figured out how to minimize insurers' risk and give customers an accounting edge and a tax break: Multiyear contracts in which the premiums covered most if not all of the potential losses -- but refunded much of the unclaimed money at the end of the contract.  Buyers loved the policies because they could offset losses with loan-like proceeds without disclosing liabilities that would muddy their bottom lines. And the premiums were tax deductible.  Such policies became among the industry's hottest products. Now, two decades later, they are the focus of multiple state and federal investigations into companies suspected of using them to manipulate earnings. And this week, those probes helped topple Mr. Greenberg as chief executive, although he will remain chairman. His company sold one policy later declared a sham by federal authorities and itself bought another -- now the focus of intense scrutiny -- from Berkshire Hathaway Inc., where Messrs. Gluckstern and Palm got their start.  "If used improperly, these contracts can enable a company to conceal the bottom-line impact of a loss and thus misrepresent its financial results," says the Securities and Exchange Commission's Mark Schonfeld, who is overseeing the agency's probe of such policies as the head of its Northeast office.
Ianthe Jeanne Dugan and Theo Francis, "How a Hot Insurance Product Burned AIG:  An Unlikely Duo's New Approach Called 'Finite Risk Insurance' Was a Hit -- Until Inquiries Began," The Wall Street Journal,  March 15, 2005; Page C1 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111084339061279243,00.html?mod=todays_us_money_and_investing 
Bob Jensen's threads on "rotten to the core" insurance rackets can be found at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/fraudrotten.htm#MutualFunds 


Symptoms include "excessive and sometimes fraudulent risks
Add to the growing number of recently diagnosed diseases in America the Icarus Syndrome. This malady, discovered by a law professor, is said to affect corporations in particular. The symptoms include "excessive and sometimes fraudulent risks." The disease has attacked corporate America not only in our own scandal-plagued times but, it seems, since about 1873.  Icarus in the Boardroom (Oxford University Press, 250 pages, $25) is an attempt to alert public-health officials, so to speak, to the dangers of this contagion. David Skeel, a professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, labels all sorts of apparently admirable traits -- "self-confidence, visionary insight, the ability to think outside the box" -- as potential Icaran qualities, full of danger. They "may spur entrepreneurs to take misguided risks," he writes, "in the belief that everything they touch will eventually turn to gold." Fortunately, he offers a number of cures, ranging from small doses of regulation to massive doses of regulation.  And little wonder. What is most interesting about "Icarus in the Boardroom" is the vast divide it reveals -- between American lawyers who study corporations and, well, everybody else. Following common sense and economic logic, most people view corporate risk-taking and corporate fraud as different things: Fraud involves lying; risk-taking does not. As in the case of Enron and WorldCom, fraudulent executives often misstate how much risk their investors will assume.  For academic lawyers such as Mr. Skeel, however, it seems that risk-taking and fraud are points on a continuum. Risk-taking quickly fades into "excessive" risk-taking, which then morphs into fraud. Mr. Skeel never says just how we are to distinguish acceptable risks from the excessive and fraudulent kind. Apparently, though, lawmakers and regulators will figure out a formula, for it falls to them, in Mr. Skeel's view, "to prevent risk-taking that edges toward market manipulation or fraud."
Jonathan R. Macey, "A Risky Proposition," The Wall Street Journal,  March 15, 2005; Page D8 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111083993718979142,00.html?mod=todays_us_personal_journal 
Bob Jensen's "Rotten to the Core" threads are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/fraudrotten.htm 


I think Philip Bennett should move to China and try out that nation's free speech and democratic realities
"I don't think US should be the leader of the world . . . I think China is the best place in the world to be an American journalist right now." Philip Bennett, Editor of Washington Post  --- http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200503/10/print20050310_176350.html 

The People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese communist dictatorship, announced today that it would merge with the Washington Post, to publish "an accurate newspaper of global significance called The Wa-Po Daily."  Washington Post Managing Editor Philip Bennett will oversee news-gathering operations for The Wa-Po Daily, under the guidance of "an unnamed committee of Chinese truth advocates."  The first hints of the media marriage emerged from an interview Mr. Bennett granted to People's Daily correspondent Yong Tang, in which the veteran American newsman drew no moral distinction between the Chinese and American expressions of democracy and accused the Bush administration of lying and limiting freedom of the press.
Scott Ott, "Chinese Daily-Washington Post Merger Boosts Credibility," Scrapple Face, March 14, 2005 --- http://www.scrappleface.com/MT/archives/002112.html 

China's Communist Party maintains its monopoly on political power by delivering benefits to its 1.3 billion people, in line with governments worldwide. It also guards its turf jealously by ensuring that watchful party officials sit in every corner of society deemed a potential threat to that monopoly. This entails everything from "officially sanctioned" religious organizations and political parties to sports groups, chambers of commerce, university departments and farm collectives.  Groups viewed as a threat are quickly batted down, as seen with official crackdowns on Tibetan monks, Falun Gong practitioners, separatist Muslims in the country's west and Internet essayists. A recently published list of banned gatherings, which included an amateur singing club, a pigeon lovers group and a dozen people holding a ceremony to bless a new building, shows how jittery the party can be.  Police, cybercops and vaguely worded national security laws are among the bluntest weapons in the party's arsenal. At least as effective are the demotions and other subtle threats that engender self-censorship.  Communist leaders have read their history and are well aware that as least as many Chinese dynasties have fallen to internal rot, complacency and corruption as to barbarian threats beyond the Great Wall.  That's where the Hu and Wen campaign for enhanced discipline comes in. With 68 million members, or an all-time high of 5.2% of China's population, the Communist Party is bloated and increasingly unfocused.
Mark Magnier, "Flip Side to Fame in China," Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2005 --- http://snipurl.com/ChinaMarch14 


Question
What is the latest, often illegal, craze on campus?

Answer
Serious Gambling
For Michael Sandberg, it started a few years ago with nickel-and-dime games among friends. But last fall, he says, it became the source of a six-figure income and an alternative to law school.Mr. Sandberg's is an extreme example of a gambling revolution on the nation's college campuses. Mr. Sandberg calls it an explosion, one spurred by televised poker championships and a proliferation of Web sites that offer online poker games.  Experts say the evidence of gambling's popularity on campus is hard to miss. In December, for example, a sorority at Columbia held its first, 80-player poker tournament with a $10 buy-in, a minimum amount required to play, while the University of North Carolina held its first tournament, a 175-player competition, in October. Both games filled up and had waiting lists. At the University of Pennsylvania, private games are advertised every night in a campus e-mail list.
Jonathan Cheng, "Ante Up at Dear Old Princeton: Online Poker Is a Campus Draw," The New York Times, March 14, 2005 --- http://snipurl.com/CampusGambling 


The Great Game
This analysis of chess history synthesized in my mind with my extensive experience of playing against computers. For over 50 years, back to the earliest days of computing, chess has been recognized as a unique cognitive battleground. The world watched my matches with "Deep Blue," "Fritz," and "Junior" as man-versus-machine competitions and a way to see how computers "think." To me they were also helpful in revealing how humans make decisions. These computers looked at millions of positions per second, weighing each one to find the mathematically best moves. And yet a human, seeing just two or three positions per second, but guided by intuition and experience, could compete with the mighty machines.  The nature of the decision-making process is little explored and I have become fascinated with the possibility of using my expertise to illuminate these questions. I am currently working on a book on how life imitates chess, that will be released this fall in America by Penguin. It examines the unique formulae people use in thinking and problem-solving. For example, the way hope and doubt affect how we process information, or the way we perform in a crisis. I hope it will also serve as a guide to improving these processes.  Over the past several years I have made a number of speeches on the topic of chess themes in life, particularly in business thinking and strategy. The response has been overwhelming and enlightening and I am extracting a number of valuable parallels. For example: the difference between tactics and strategy; how to train your intuition; and maintaining creativity in an era of analysis. In particular, the topic of intuition is intriguing. When I analyzed a 1894 world championship game between Lasker and Wilhelm Steinitz, I also looked at their post-game analysis and the comments of other top players of the day. They all made more mistakes in analysis than the players had made during the game! The intuitive decisions of the players during the game were correct in most cases, and more often so than when they had all the time in the world to analyze later.
Gary Kasparov, "The Great Game," The Wall Street Journal,  March 14, 2005; Page A16 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111076463398178318,00.html?mod=opinion&ojcontent=otep 

I believe my talents and experience can be useful in the political realm. There is something to be said for a chess player's ability to see the whole board. Many politicians are so focused on one problem, or a single aspect of a problem, that they remain unaware that solving it may require action on something that appears unrelated. It is natural for a chess player, by contrast, to look at the big picture. Zbigniew Brzezinski recently wrote on geopolitics as "The Grand Chessboard" and the analogy persists in many ways. There is no single solution to a chess game; you must consider every factor to produce a complete strategic solution.  Like everyone, I am dismayed by the long list of problems facing the world today. I am more concerned about the even longer list of proposed solutions and how many of them are considered by their proponents to be exclusive. Instead of looking at the whole board, they are focusing too narrowly and as a result devise narrow solutions. Our leaders must be able to think more ambitiously.
Gary Kasparov, "The Great Game," The Wall Street Journal,  March 14, 2005; Page A16 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111076463398178318,00.html?mod=opinion&ojcontent=otep 


Number of people who read the paper online now surpasses the number who buy the print edition
Consumers are willing to spend millions of dollars on the Web when it comes to music services like iTunes and gaming sites like Xbox Live. But when it comes to online news, they are happy to read it but loath to pay for it.  Newspaper Web sites have been so popular that at some newspapers, including The New York Times, the number of people who read the paper online now surpasses the number who buy the print edition.  This migration of readers is beginning to transform the newspaper industry. Advertising revenue from online sites is booming and, while it accounts for only 2 percent or 3 percent of most newspapers' overall revenues, it is the fastest-growing source of revenue. And newspaper executives are watching anxiously as the number of online readers grows while the number of print readers declines.
Katherine Q. Seelye, "Can Papers End the Free Ride Online?" The New York Times, March 14, 2005 --- http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/14/business/media/14paper.html


Bush administration's gradual, flexible strategy for reconstructing Afghanistan 
One man's journey from feared warlord to bland bureaucrat illustrates how the U.S. has adopted a gradual, flexible strategy for reconstructing Afghanistan since ousting the Taliban government in 2001.  Mr. Khan has made the journey from feared warlord to bland bureaucrat thanks to the Bush administration's gradual, flexible strategy for reconstructing Afghanistan since ousting the Taliban government in 2001. Rather than trying to force radical change overnight, the U.S. has been patient. It has avoided confrontations with tribal elders and warlords -- letting them until recently keep their private militias and weapons and even paying the salaries of their fighters -- while building a credible central government in Kabul.  The strategy has meant that reconstruction here slogs ahead at a slow pace. But it has also helped contain support for the insurgency still being waged by remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda.
David S. Cloud, "Afghan Warlords Slowly Come In From the Cold," The Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2005, Page A1 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111077025608878404,00.html?mod=todays_us_page_one 
Jensen Comment:  Now if we could only think of a way for Afghans to make a sustainable living outside of opium production.


Fraudulent Health Clinics and Doctors:  What happened to ethics?
A group of health clinics and doctors paid thousands of people across the U.S. to undergo unnecessary surgery so they could defraud insurers out of tens of millions of dollars, a lawsuit alleges.  Twelve Blue Cross and Blue Shield health-insurance plans sued a group of Southern California health-care clinics, physicians and others they say are involved in the elaborate scheme.  The scope of the alleged fraud is vast. The insurers claim the clinics paid recruiters to enlist patients in 47 states, then transported the people to California where they underwent unnecessary and sometimes dangerous outpatient procedures.
"Blue Cross Groups Sue Clinics, Doctors, Claiming Insurance Fraud," The Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2005; Page B4 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111076460482378314,00.html?mod=todays_us_marketplace 
Bob Jensen's threads on medical and drug company frauds are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/FraudReporting.htm#PhysiciansAndDrugCompanies 


Amazon Pays $27.5 Million To Settle Securities Suit
Amazon.com Inc. disclosed Friday it has agreed to pay $27.5 million to settle an investor lawsuit alleging securities violations by its officers and directors.  According to its annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Seattle-based Internet retailer said it reached a settlement with plaintiffs lawyers in March. The company expects most, if not all, of the settlement will funded by its insurers.  The complaint was filed by stock and bond holders in August 2003. It alleges that Amazon officers and directors made false or misleading statements from Oct. 29, 1998, through Oct. 23, 2001, about the company's business, financial condition and future prospects, among other things.
"Amazon Pays $27.5 Million To Settle Securities Suit," The Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2005, Page B9 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111054778856777083,00.html?mod=todays_us_marketplace


So which is it? Highly sensitive to the value of the dollar, or not?
Many economic commentators argue that the trade deficit somehow results from low saving and the federal budget deficit. But reducing the budget deficit can't really help the trade deficit. To shrink the budget deficit, the government must either spend less or tax more, withdrawing demand from the U.S. economy. Purchases of all goods, foreign and domestic, would fall. Since imports make up only about 15% of GDP, the biggest decline of purchases would be domestic, resulting in only a marginal decline in imports relative to the drop in GDP.  Trying to increase household saving (i.e., reduce consumer spending) would help no more. To meaningfully lessen the trade deficit by saving, Americans would need to focus their spending reductions specifically on foreign goods -- highly unlikely in a nation with 85% of its spending on domestic goods and services.  Nor does the dollar need to fall -- and the trade deficit doesn't necessarily fall when the dollar does. Analysts who criticize low saving and the budget gap also often admit the dollar is undervalued in purchasing power, yet they say it must fall further to alleviate the trade deficit. But for a weak dollar to have any impact on imports, the amount of imports must fall by more than the dollar does.  If the dollar falls by 20% and the number of goods imported falls by 20%, the sum of dollars sent abroad remains the same: Americans purchase fewer imported goods, but spend more on the ones they do buy. Not one new U.S. job is created, while prices rise for American consumers and businesses. Oddly, if demand for imports is relatively inflexible, the trade deficit actually increases with a weaker dollar; Americans just pay more for the same goods. Unless imports fall disproportionately more than the dollar (or exports rise), a lower exchange rate will help neither our trade deficit nor our employment.  Increased exports do help both the trade deficit and U.S. employment, but a weaker dollar is a mixed blessing for U.S. exporters. While it makes completed American goods cost less abroad, the cost of production may rise when they include foreign parts or materials.  Stronger Asian currencies would be no more likely to significantly reduce the trade deficit, given the large differences in wage costs. American manufacturers might find that a 20% decline in the dollar wouldn't lead them to switch purchase of parts from Asian to U.S. suppliers, if the ones from Asia cost 40% less today. The cost of U.S. imports, and U.S. exports using those same parts, would just rise.  The key question is how much aggregate purchases of both U.S. imports and exports might change with the dollar. If imports fall in pace with the dollar and exports rise, the trade deficit would shrink with a lower dollar. But if purchases are less elastic -- if people and businesses continue to buy roughly the same amounts of foreign goods and services even as dollar prices change -- the trade deficit could actually be reduced by a stronger dollar.

So which is it? Highly sensitive to the value of the dollar, or not?  Not -- at least not enough.
Frank and Dan Newman, "Trade Deficit Trickery," The Wall Street Journal, March 14, 2005; Page A17 --- http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB111076511677178324,00.html?mod=opinion&ojcontent=otep 


Written at an introductory and somewhat humorous level
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ECONOMICS: Artful Approaches to the Dismal Science
by E Ray Canterbery (Florida State University) ---  http://www.worldscibooks.com/economics/4079.html 

A Brief History of Economics illustrates how the ideas of the great economists not only influenced societies but were themselves shaped by their cultural milieu. Understanding the economists' visions lucidly and vividly unveiled by Canterbery allows readers to place economics within a broader community of ideas. Magically, the author links Adam Smith to Isaac Newton's idea of an orderly universe, F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby to Thorstein Veblen, John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath to the Great Depression, and Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities to Reaganomics.

Often humorous, Canterbery's easy style will make the student's first foray into economics lively and relevant. Readers will dismiss "dismal" from the science.
Contents:


This is a more technical and humorless introduction to economics
ECONOMICS WITH CALCULUS by Michael C Lovell (Wesleyan University, USA) --- 
http://www.worldscibooks.com/economics/5523.html
 

This textbook provides a calculus-based introduction to economics. Students blessed with a working knowledge of the calculus will find that this text facilitates their study of the basic analytical framework of economics. The textbook examines a wide range of micro and macro topics, including prices and markets, equity versus efficiency, Rawls versus Bentham, accounting and the theory of the firm, optimal lot size and just in time, monopoly and competition, exchange rates and the balance of payments, inflation and unemployment, fiscal and monetary policy, IS-LM analysis, aggregate demand and supply, speculation and rational expectations, growth and development, exhaustible resources and over-fishing. While the content is similar to that of conventional introductory economics textbook, the assumption that the reader knows and enjoys the calculus distinguishes this book from the traditional text.
Contents:


The Capital Structure Conundrum
FOCUS ON FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT by Ivan K Cohen (Richmond University, UK)

Focus on Financial Management by Ivan Cohen offers a concise, enthusiastic and highly focused approach to introducing finance to both undergraduates and MBAs. It closely integrates practical applications and the underlying financial concepts so that the reader gets a clear picture of theory and how it can be applied in practice.

The book has been carefully crafted and classroom-tested to provide an easy-to-read textbook that will engage the student and instructor alike. It has been designed to be used by students of business, finance and economics, and is equally accessible to students in other areas, such as engineering. It requires no preliminary knowledge of finance.
Contents:


I think Harvard overreacted
At 12:15 a.m. on Wednesday, March 2, a visitor to an online forum posted instructions for exploiting some sloppy Web page coding at ApplyYourself.com, a company based in Fairfax, Va., that, among other things, handles applications for some of the country's most elite business schools, including Harvard Business School.  "I know everyone is getting more and more anxious to check status of their apps to HBS, given their black box," wrote the individual, known only as "brookbond," referring to applications to Harvard Business School. Harvard's decisions are to go out on March 30. "So I looked around their site and found a way. Here are the steps."  Precisely 119 Harvard applicants followed those steps, which required them to log in to their application accounts with the school and, using some creative copying and pasting from the Web page's source code (something any Web surfer is free to do), create an address that would access their application decision - if one had been made.  About 100 applicants to other business schools at M.I.T., Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Dartmouth and Duke, which also use the ApplyYourself.com service, made use of the recipe as well. Some applicants saw rejection letters. Others saw nothing. . . . But many online commenters (NYT spelling error) thought the ethics of the incident were more nuanced.  "I might feel differently if I knew that the applicants were aware that they were breaking the rules," Edward W. Felten, a professor of computer science at Princeton University, wrote in his Web log. "But I'm not sure that an applicant, on being told that his letter was already on the Web and could be accessed by constructing a particular U.R.L., would necessarily conclude that accessing it was against the rules." . . . Mr. Henderson is still awaiting word from a couple of other schools and, in the meantime, has poured his disdain for Harvard into a line of T-shirts that seek to "Free the HBS 119." He said three of the shirts had been sold as of Saturday. 
Tom Zeller Jr., "Not Yet in Business School, and Already Flunking Ethics," The New York Times, March 14, 2005 --- http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/14/technology/14harvard.html 


Bad PR for the UAW:  The union should worry more about similar behavior of its own members
The UAW no longer will allow Marine reservists who work out of a base in Detroit to park at the Solidarity House lot if they have foreign cars or display pro-Bush bumper stickers. Marines driven out of UAW lot The union says Marines in foreign cars, displaying Bush stickers unwelcome. By Eric Mayne / The Detroit News Comment on this story Send this story to a friend Get Home Delivery DETROIT -- The United Auto Workers says Marine reservists should show a little more semper fi if they want to use the union's parking lot. The Marine Corps motto means "always faithful," but the union says some reservists working out of a base on Jefferson Avenue in Detroit have been decidedly unfaithful to their fellow Americans by driving import cars and trucks.  So the UAW International will no longer allow members of the 1st Battalion 24th Marines to park at Solidarity House if they are driving foreign cars or displaying pro-President Bush bumper stickers.
Free Republic, March 14, 2005 --- http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1362379/posts 
While we are at war, I think this is bad PR to deny marines what would otherwise be a courtesy if they just drove American cars (which probably has over 50% foreign components anyway).  Besides, some "foreign" vehicles like Toyota trucks are built in both the U.S. and Japan.  

Update on March 16, 2005
Facing intense criticism, UAW President Ron Gettelfinger reversed his decision to ban Marine Corps reservists driving foreign cars or displaying pro-President Bush bumper stickers from parking at the union's Solidarity House headquarters in Detroit.  "I made the wrong call on the parking issue, and I have notified the Marine Corps that all reservists are welcome to park at Solidarity House as they have for the past 10 years," Gettelfinger said in a statement.
"Marines snub UAW olive branch:  Reservists will park elsewhere, although union admits mistake banning nonunion cars, Bush stickers," Detroit News, March 16, 2005 --- http://www.detnews.com/2005/autosinsider/0503/15/A01-117640.htm 


If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia. 
Margaret Atwood, Canadian writer as quoted by Matt Labash in "Welcome to Canada," The Great White Waste of Time, 03/21/2005, Volume 010, Issue 25 --- http://weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/005/349tpijp.asp 


The prospects of oil prices dropping back below $40 per barrel now appear to be running neck and neck with Michael Jackson getting Babysitter of The Year Award.  Delta Air Lines, which up until this latest spurt in fuel prices was heading out of the financial woods, has warned that it may not have sufficient liquidity to meet its needs in 2005. Translating that: they're running out of cash. Reason: skyrocketing fuel costs are draining the airline's coffers. Fast. Delta is just the first to sound the alarm.
The Boyd Group, March 14, 2005 --- http://www.aviationplanning.com/asrc1.htm 


The Bush Train Wreck
One of my favorite George Bush malapropisms is from the 2000 election campaign: "They have miscalculated me as a leader." He meant, of course, that people had miscalculated if they thought he was not a leader.The president's difficulties with off-the-cuff speech have led to all sorts of assumptions about his intellectual confusion and worse. But there is nothing confused about this president's agenda. At this point in his presidency, he has fielded the most focused agenda in modern times, to great effect. His success rate in major policy activities is nothing less than astounding. No wonder he has never vetoed...

Bryan D. Jones, "The Bush Train Wreck," The Seattle Times, March 13, 2005 --- http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2002205731_sundaybryan13.html 


By distributing adult films, corporations like DirecTV and Marriott essentially pay porn actors to have sex
The accused Upper East Side madam says she should get a slide because big companies promote prostitution all the time and are never prosecuted. By distributing adult films, corporations like DirecTV and Marriott essentially pay porn actors to have sex, no less so than a pimp or madam pays a prostitute to have sex with a john, the millionaire reasons. If those companies aren't prosecuted, she says, neither should she be. The legal argument has been filed on behalf of Jenny Paulino, 44, arrested in December after a raid on her alleged American Beauties escort service and brothel at...
Laura Italiano, "Alleged Madam's 'Firm' Defense," The New York Post, March 14, 2005 --- http://www.nypost.com/news/regionalnews/41079.htm 


Setting a bad example for its students:  Plagiarized from Alabama A&M University
A federal judge on Friday blocked the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools from revoking the accreditation of Edward Waters College while the institution pursues a due process lawsuit against the association.  In December, the regional accrediting group said that it had revoked the Florida college's accreditation, citing documents Edward Waters officials had submitted to the association that appeared to have been plagiarized from Alabama A&M University, another historically black institution.
Doug Lederman, "Staying Alive," Inside Higher Ed, March 14, 2005 --- http://www.insidehighered.com/insider/staying_alive 
Bob Jensen's threads on plagiarism are at http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen/plagiarism.htm 


The Arab press makes more sense sometimes than the European press
However, it is unfathomable to think that the Pentagon would have ordered a deliberate assassination of a Western reporter under such high-profile circumstances.  While the idea of the Italian government funding the insurgency and further supporting the new cottage industry of kidnapping runs counter to US policy in Iraq, in this instance the money had apparently already been paid.  In other words, there was nothing to be gained by attacking the Italian rescue vehicle.  And as events have proven, in terms of public relations and international politics, the Americans stood to lose everything by doing so since Italy is one of the few European members of US President George Bush's "coalition of the willing" with a tangible troop commitment of some 3000 soldiers in Iraq.  The attack against Sgrena has only re-ignited the strong anti-war and anti-American sentiments which existed in Italy, and Prime Minister Berlusconi will be hard-pressed by public protests to bring home the Italian contingent.
Scott Taylor, "Hostage bungle: Chaos, not conspiracy," Aljazeera, March 10, 2005 --- http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/9F3D082E-919F-4C0E-AD2E-7541EC22B048.htm 


Remember the oil crisis back when Jimmy Carter was president of the U.S.
The nation has a hidden treasure that could help Americans painlessly weather the interruption of oil from Iran. It is an underground cache of 80 million barrels that the Energy Department has been stowing away in empty salt caverns on the Gulf Coast.
The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 1979



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Professor Robert E. Jensen (Bob) http://www.trinity.edu/rjensen
Jesse H. Jones Distinguished Professor of Business Administration
Trinity University, San Antonio, TX 78212-7200
Voice: 210-999-7347 Fax: 210-999-8134  Email:  rjensen@trinity.edu  

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