THE LIMITS OF CHARITY.Warren Buffett's plan to give most of his money to the already giant foundation Bill Gates started is, of course, going to make the foundation super-large. Word on the street is that it will allow the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to approximately double its current $1.4 billion in annual grant-making, which is mostly focused on the important and under-served cause of fighting third world disease.
I have complained in the past about reporters' willingness to accept corporate numbers uncritically. My favorite example is the widely reported claim that the compensation of Delphi's unionized workers averaged $65 an hour. This implied a benefits package worth more than $70,000 a year. Anyone believe that?
We have another example from the Times today. Its article on GM's buyout offer to workers reports that getting rid of 35,000 workers will save GM $8 billion a year. Hmmmm, my calculator puts that at a savings of just under $230,000 per worker.
The May data for new home sales came in somewhat higher than expected. It is important to keep in mind that the home sales data record contracts, not completed sales. In the boom period a year ago, broken contracts were rare. Now that prices are weakening in many of the formerly hot markets, broken contracts are becoming common.
To my knowledge, no one keeps data on the percentage of contracts that are broken, but there have been reports from some builders in California and Florida of cancellation rates in the range of 20-30 percent. If the nationwide rate of cancellation is even 5 percentage points higher than last year, it would conceal a sharp falloff in actual sales.
THE BLOGOSPHERE'S BEEF WITH TNR. I think Marty Peretz's Friday evening post on The Plank, in which he defended TNR from its left-wing blog attackers and excoriated their grammar, actually made a lot of fair points. TNR does effectively criticize the Bush administration and congressional Republicans on any number of issues, mostly domestic. And, I might add, they often do so more effectively than some of their more left-leaning counterparts precisely because their tone is less rigidly partisan and they are willing to grapple more seriously with conservative counter-arguments. [Full disclosure: I used to work there.]
BETTER IN '06 THAN '08. The fight between TNR and Daily Kos made the hop to the mainstream media over the weekend, and both news outlets had their single mostblogged-about days this year, according to Technorati. Having gone "berserk" mid-week with his declaration of war against TNR, according to thisNewsweek profile, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga appears to have thought the better of it and decided to try and capture some of the controversy-driven traffic by highlighting a welcome to the first-time readers.
MINUTEMEN EXPLAINED.The New York Times has inadvertently explained the recent resurgence in xenophobia. The explanations that I gleaned from their big story on immigration today are: 1) there are too many retirees with nothing better to do, and 2) there are too many suburbanites not used to diversity and allergic to the common good. Both these qualities were perfectly captured in the story's leading man on the street, Patrick Nicolosi of Elmont, New York.
WDJD? WHAT DID JEROME DO? It's worth being clear, too, on what exactly the charges against Jerome Armstrong are. The SEC believes that he took stock at below-market prices and then sought to hype the stock in order to increase its prices without disclosure. That last bit is the problem. He can push whatever stocks he wants (well, not after the investigation, but before); the wrongdoing came in his lack of transparency. Raging Bull readers who scanned his posts had no way of knowing he was possibly a paid flack rather than an honest broker.
P4P PASSES. In politics, the battle lines over health care are drawn atop access. The quality of our care is granted, the only question is how more folk can reap the benefits. In academia, however, the question is as often care. Our surgeons may be on the cutting edge (thanks folks, I'll be here all week), but stepping back a bit from the frontier, the vast majority of care is either inefficiently delivered or simply forgotten. Studies show that we receive only about 55 percent of the recommended treatments for most serious complaints -- and we're not talking CAT scans here, but easy lifesavers, like aspirin and beta blockers after a heart attack.
KOS/ARMSTRONG/ZENGERLE FOLLOWUP. All right, a brief comment on this. The folks out there in the 'sphere alleging that Jason Zengerledeliberately fabricated the now-infamous Gilliard email ought to knock it off. There's no basis for saying that, it would be a ridiculous thing to do, and it's irresponsible to be running around making those kind of charges.
THE REAL ISSUES.Jason Zengerleconcedes that, as rumored in the blogofascistsphere over the weekend, the email he attributed to Steve Gilliard was inauthentic. He then pleads that we not "use this minor error to distract people from much larger issues," namely: