Thursday, November 18, 2004

Hear now the sad tale of Jerome Schneider, convicted architect of illegal tax shelters for thousands who may now be prosecuted in their turn:

Today, Mr. Schneider said, he is broke. "I lost everything,'' he said. "My wife divorced me and with the legal fees, everything is gone."

Asked about the millions of dollars he earned setting up offshore banks, he replied, "It is gone, all gone."

Or something like that:

Since he has held himself up as the world's leading expert on hiding money offshore, how could one know for sure if Mr. Schneider really is broke? The I.R.S. agents listening to the question put their hands to their mouths to repress grins.

"If you can find it," Mr. Schneider said, "I would say take it."

One of the problems with market solutions to health insurance is that sick people want it, and they cost the insurance companies a lot of money. Stanford economist Alain Enthoven, a noted expert on healthcare, has a solution:

One problem that providers face is what economists call "adverse selection." This means that workers who need more-expensive health care because of existing conditions will want to choose more comprehensive plans. This leads to higher costs for such plans, making the premiums even more expensive.

Mr. Enthoven advocates "risk adjustment" to control for adverse selection. This is a type of statistical procedure that estimates the likely cost of subscribers based on age, location, sex and so on, allowing insurers to predict the cost of those who sign up. Premiums can then be adjusted to reflect actual costs related to different health risks associated with different populations.

And if a diabetic recovering cancer patient finds herself in a cohort with premiums so high that she can't afford insurance at all, it's just a testimonial to the efficiency of the marketplace. To those of us who thought that the purpose of health insurance was to pay the medical bills of the sick this is indeed a truly remarkable innovation...

More: Jim Henley and Atrios are actually thinking about this, rather than just throwing mud pies...

So, our new Secretary of State will be an old Cold War hand, who seems to be really unclear on the concept of non-state actors in terrorism. Fortunately, to make her relevant, Dubya's good friend Vladimir has come along to revive the nuclear arms race.

That's if he really is Dubya's bestest soul buddy in the whole world. One of the weirder concoctions on the Web is this site, which features periodic collages of some of the more outrageous rumors around. These are attributed to someone who was first identified as a member of the White House Press Corpse who was anonymously sending along the Real Poop he wouldn't dare report. When it became implausible that anyone from the press would have access to that much Real Poop, he became an unidentified senior official, and the stories got even wilder. He's so far disclosed, among other things, mandatory White House prayer meetings,a "very minor seizure" that left Dubya unable to answer any question without careful rehearsal, his homosexual affairs with, among others, a "black drag queen", a draft which is scheduled for June 2005, and a joint Israeli/American strike on Iran which was planned for before the election, and yet, has so far failed to materialize. This guy also says that while Dubya was talking about his warm relationship with Vladimir in the debates, he was at the same time "frantically trying to oust Putin" behind the scenes, an effort which, mysteriously, is not even rumored elsewhere. Bearing in mind Karl Rove's prediliction for sliming his own candidates, it's entirely your choice whether to believe a word of it.

via Mahabarbara.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The American Prospect reports that World Bank head James Wolfensohn, originally appointed by Clinton, is looking to retain his post under Bush. How? Sebastian Mallaby, author of a book on Wolfensohn that I didn't much like, has a few ideas:

"He'll say, 'Look, I've got a lot of support in European capitals.' He will argue that he has personal friendships among world leaders, and he could say, 'I've been going to West Bank and Gaza for ten years, and I have relationships there.' Further, he'll sweeten the deal by saying, 'I'll only serve half a term,'" says Mallaby.

CNN is reporting (via Liberal Oasis) that that argument didn't go over so well for Colin Powell:

[JOHN KING]: ... There are some in the administration who said that he wanted to stay through March or April to try to explore that opening [for negotiations in the Palestinian conflict, in the wake of Arafat's death] and the answer from the White House was no. Is that your understanding?

MIKE ALLEN, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes, John. You saw here how awkward this departure is. Just as the secretary is heading out on a Middle East peace mission, he's announced his departure. He says it will be weeks or a matter of weeks or a few months before he goes.

Lotsa luck, Jim...

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Reports from Fallujah: Eric Umansky notes that war is hell. Riverbend suggests that hell on earth is bad politics.

Posting should ramp back up to the usual lackadaisical rate in another day or two...

The Times has published yet another dangers of blogging article. This one's about a Delta stewardess who got fired for posting some supposedly inappropriate photos of herself on an airplane. She says she's trying to "project the image of a stewardess from a bygone era", and that's very definitely not the image her employer wants to project in the here and now. Instead, it seems, they choose to project the image of stuffed-up prigs who act in ways that invite lawsuits and rain negative publicity upon them. Which doesn't sound like a good move to me, but hey, I'm not a professional PR guy.

Now, if you click through my link to the photos themselves, you'll probably be disapointed. Anyone who objects to these photos would probably need to be hospitalized after seeing newspaper ads for a lingerie sale at Macy's. So let's just stipulate that the management here are total jerks. But that said, it's still the case that blogging about work is a risky thing to do. It's not always the wrong thing to do, but you need to think about it, because there are risks. Pseudonymity is a reasonable way to try to reduce those risks, but you can't reasonably claim to be anonymous when you're putting your real face on the blog...