Archive

  • NONE DARE CALL...

    NONE DARE CALL IT BULLSHIT. I never, ever, ever watch prime time cable news because it makes me want to kill extremely large numbers of people. Tragically, I walked through the door yesterday and my roommate already had Hardball on. There were two people debating the issue of . . . whether or not The New York Times should be brought up on charges of treason. Seriously. Treason. For publishing an article in a newspaper. Treason. And there was Chris Matthews happily presiding over the whole thing as if this was a serious conversation that people should be having. This all taking place on a network that, allegedly, does journalism. UPDATE: Video available as well. --Matthew Yglesias
  • THE LIMITS OF...

    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. Still, one thing that I think contemplating the prospect of this super-foundation does is simply demonstrate the limits of direct charitable work as opposed to spending money on policy work aimed at systemic change. If the foundation really does double its grant-making, that would come to about $1.7 billion per year on global health issues. By contrast, were the United States government to live up to the commitment it's already made to the United Nations Millenium Development Goals that would involve spending about $77 billion on third world development issues...
  • When Numbers Don't Add Up at the New York Times

    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. If you think this number sounds a bit high, you would get confirmation by the end of the article. The last paragraph reports the assessment of a stock analyst that GM earnings will rise $1.25 a share for each 10,000 workers who accept the offer. With 565.6 million shares outstanding, this implies additional earnings of $707 million for each 10,000 workers, or $2.47 billion for the 35,000 workers who accepted the buyout. That comes to a more...
  • New Homes Sales, the Rest of the Story

    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. One key measure that gets around this issue is the number of unsold homes. This was 556,000 in May, essentially the same as April's record high of 560,000, and more than 100,000 higher than the inventory of 450,00 reported in May of 2005. --Dean Baker
  • THE BLOGOSPHERE'S BEEF...

    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.] But here's the irony: Immediately below Marty's post is a prime example, courtesy of Lawrence Kaplan , of precisely what the bloggers find so maddening. And no, sorry Marty, it isn't because "TNR is a heterodox institution, a concept Kos surely cannot fathom." It's because TNR is an institution that gives space to the conservative -- not moderate -- rantings of liberal-...
  • BETTER IN '06...

    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 most blogged-about days this year, according to Technorati. Having gone "berserk" mid-week with his declaration of war against TNR , according to this Newsweek 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. Most other responses on the site are now tending toward satire or works with lighter touches, while TNR , for its part, renounced one of the e-mails it had published, citing sources who misled its reporter. So perhaps both sides are stepping back from the brink. Conservative blog Reihl World View has the best round-up of all the facts at issue, which, even controlling for the writer's obvious agenda, are rather devastating, and by and large news to me. All I can say is: Far better...
  • MINUTEMEN EXPLAINED. The...

    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. When reading profiles of the Minutemen and such, I am constantly struck by the high proportion of retirees among them. In this piece Nicolosi, 49, who retired prematurely from his delivery truck driving job, tsk-tsks as he sees two immigrant children board a local school bus. Lacking gainful employment to occupy his time, he has the energy to get worked up over this, and some of his neighbors think him a busybody because of that. Furthermore, since he lives in the suburbs, where schools are heavily financed by property taxes, the...
  • WDJD? WHAT...

    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. Fast forward to the present, where Armstrong is a consultant to Mark Warner . Indeed, he's a decidedly public employee of Warner, certainly one of the best known and most widely publicized consultants of the 2008 campaign thus far. Where the stock malfeasance turned on Armstrong's hidden relationship, allegations of wrongdoing here are all based on his public relationship. Given that the job of a consultant is to hype and help his candidate, Jerome...
  • P4P PASSES. ...

    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. America offers the world's best care for the most exotic and complicated problems, but if you're unlucky enough to suffer something more mundane, you're better off in a host of other hamlets. The policy response here is something called pay For Performance medicine, or P4P. At base, the incentives in our system are to offer treatments,...
  • KOS/ARMSTRONG/ZENGERLE FOLLOWUP. All...

    KOS/ARMSTRONG/ZENGERLE FOLLOWUP. All right, a brief comment on this. The folks out there in the 'sphere alleging that Jason Zengerle deliberately 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. To step back a bit, insofar as all that's being alleged by Markos ' detractors, here is something along the lines of "Markos' affections for candidates seems idiosyncratic and not driven by a consistent ideological worldview" that I heartily agree with and I think is a problem. TAPPED , like Max Sawicky , has generally taken the position that, contrary to the C.W., the trouble with the netroots is insufficient dogmatism and strident leftwingery. This is why I now and again have occasion to disagree with something he writes, at which point I genuinely express said disagreement in a blog post. On the other hand, it's hardly as if he's...

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