Dental Denial

Forget political policies and promises for a moment. Forget who you supported on the issues. The Swift Boaters managed to convince a significant percentage of Americans John Kerry, a certified war hero, was a coward and George Bush who flew a totally undistinguished and suspect career in the Texas Air National Guard was Rambo!

I’ve been thinking about insurance a lot recently–especially since I got a denial this morning for some dental coverage.

Routine dental exams are covered. Going in an emergency is not… at least it’s not covered when coded as it was for me.

I tried to ask the insurance company’s CSR how it could have been coded to be covered? Seriously, what was I thinking? They are not giving out maps on how to collect. Their job is to pay less, not more.

I’ve asked someone from my company to help and they’re usually very good about this. I suspect at some point the bill will be paid as a covered claim, though there is no guarantee.

Of course this has me thinking more-and-more about the whole national healthcare tumult going on in Washington and at town halls everywhere. There is a huge amount of vitriol and disinformation being spewed.

Here’s why: It works!

As it is in election politics, Swift Boating is an effective method of turning public opinion and convincing people to support policies which are totally against their best interest! Look how effective Swift Boating was against John Kerry.

Forget political policies and promises for a moment. Forget who you supported on the issues. The Swift Boaters managed to convince a significant percentage of Americans John Kerry, a certified war hero, was a coward and George Bush who flew a totally undistinguished and suspect career in the Texas Air National Guard was Rambo!

The healthcare debate is being Swift Boated quite effectively. People are being convinced good is bad, right is wrong. As long as this tactic works (it is totally dependent on convincing the naive whose votes count one-for-one with the informed) it will be used again-and-again.

You may ask, have the perpetrators of Swift Boating no shame? No, they do not. Individual facts are fungible commodities when you’re looking to a achieve a broader goal. That’s why people are screaming against policies they previously supported.

In many ways the healthcare debate is like a parent fighting with a child. The parent takes a long term look at what he’s about to say. The child, however, is willing to slash and burn to get what they want now.

But the bottom line is, as long as this strategy works it will continue to be used.

The Money Doesn’t Upset Me

What exactly do you do with $109,000,000? Seriously, how could you spend it?

Matt Drudge, who seems to be particularly critical of anything Hillary Clinton does, has this bold faced headline on his site:


Wow, that’s a lot of money. What exactly do you do with $109,000,000? Seriously, how could you spend it? I’m not sure I could, or would want to.

World Exclusive: 4/4/08 15:43:06 ET

2000-2007 Returns

Feds Taxes Paid: $33.7 million

Charity: $10.2 million

Her Senate Salary: $1,051,606

His Presidential Pension: $1,217,250

Her Book Income: $10,457,083

His Book Income: $29,580,525

His Speech Income: $51,855,599

That’s from Drudge too. I love the way he’s pinpointed to the second when his “World Exclusive” broke, though his link goes to (and his facts come from) Yahoo! and wire service copy.

I know his point is to upset me. I’m not upset. Yes, that’s a lot of money… maybe too much money, but we’re allowed to aspire to, and achieve wealth.

I don’t want anyone telling me how much to earn.

This is an equal opportunity pursuit. Presidents see their post-presidency as a time to make money. George Bush “43” certainly does. “41” does too.

From the BBC:

“I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers,” Mr Bush told Robert Draper, author of Dead Certain: The Presidency of George Bush.

What I really want to know is where the Clinton’s post-presidential money comes from. Who paid him and for what? That part of the story has not broken. The $109 million figure is sexier, but much less important.

A Modern Buyer’s Quandary – My EBay Story

EBay had done to my seller what George Bush wishes he could do to photos of him in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner! They made him disappear.

I’m a 21st Century guy. I buy online all the time. That’s why tonight, I am the proud recipient of this:

Item Not Received Dispute Open: Case #PP-448-713-624


I have become obsessed with time lapse photography, so I bought an intervalometer. That’s the instrument that rhythmically fires the shutter on my still camera, making the time lapse happen.

It was a good price from an EBay seller with an excellent and long track record. Sure he was in China, but I’ve bought from there before.

Because I had a small balance, two thirds of my purchase came from it, the rest from my credit card.

Today, 10 days after the sale, I went to show someone at work what I’d bought, only to find the listing gone. The seller’s gone too!

10:45:09 PM AgentGrace G.

the item has been removed on the site by our Trust and Safety Department due to listing violation.

10:45:19 PM AgentGrace G.

So the sale may be considered null and void.

10:45:39 PM AgentGrace G.

In this case, what you can do is to contact PayPal to file a claim to get a refund.

I can tell you from past experience, Grace wasn’t about to reveal what had gone wrong. EBay had done to my seller what George Bush wishes he could do to photos of him in front of the “Mission Accomplished” banner! They made him disappear.

She added, “It’s a good thing that you paid it through PayPal as they offer money back guarantee.”

That would be great… except:

If the claim is decided in my favor, will I get all of my money back?

If a claim is decided in your favor, PayPal will make every effort to recover funds from the seller. The amount of money you are eligible to receive depends on a number of factors…

I’ll spare you the rest.

PayPal is owned by EBay, which is great, when it benefits them. When it doesn’t, they might as well be the Israelis and the Palestinians… and I’m some poor shnook from Gambia sent by the UN to stand between them.

I’ve chatted, been on the phone, and now filled out some forms. I’ve got a dispute going which PayPal promises to try and resolve it within thirty days. They’re promising to try, not promising to do. That’s the same as promising nothing.

So, what do I do? Should I plunk our another $50 and wait while someone else in China fills my order? None of these intervalometers with the proper cabling for my camera seem to exist in the states.

It’s possible my order could still come. It’s only been 10 days, which includes two weekends. China is still pretty far when surface transportation is being used. And, he could have shipped before EBay whacked him.

Tonight, I am frustrated and EBay’s the center of my frustration.

Who Is Winning The Writer’s Strike

Admission first: I’m a union member. I’m not a strident, by the book kind of guy, but I do participate. I’ve never been on strike and hope I never will be.

I have been watching, with interest, the labor dispute between the Writers Guild and producers. The economics of entertainment are changing rapidly. I really don’t know what the correct solution is.

No conventional broadcasting company is making enough money on the Internet to make up for the money the Internet has siphoned from over-the-air showings.

There is one thing that’s perfectly clear in this dispute. The writers are winning the war of PR and winning it handily.

The problem for the producers is, they’re up against people who can cleverly frame an argument… who are used to doing it for a living.

Here’s an example (see below) I found on These writers from the Daily Show have taken the techniques they were using against politicians and turned them on the producers.

Substitute George Bush and Dick Cheney with Sumner Redstone and Rupert Murdoch and you’ll have the idea.

As with any strike, there is peripheral damage. Lots of non-combatants are out-of-work. The economy in Los Angeles and, to a lesser effect, New York will feel it. And, of course, you and I will suffer when 2&#189 Men runs out of fresh episodes&#185.

&#185 – I’ve never watched the show, but it seems like low hanging comedic fruit to go after them. I have never shied away from a cheap laugh.

It’s Officially Election Day

In a few hours the polls will open. It used to be once election day got here, the candidates would no longer advertise. I wonder if that will be the case today? I doubt it.

This continues to be a fascinating election. The polls could not be any tighter. In fact, I have just taken screen captures of three websites, all with predictions on the election. Here’s why:

The NY Times predicts John Kerry wins the electoral college. predicts George Bush wins the electoral college. calls it a dead even split at 269 each (meaning Congress would settle it, and therefore President Bush would be re-elected).

Click on any of the links to see an image of the actual page taken late Monday night just before midnight,

This does seem to be an election that has brought up strong feelings on both sides. I can’t remember an election this polarized since 1972 (Nixon-McGovern). The big difference is, it really wasn’t a race in 1972 with Nixon easily winning the popular and electoral votes.

I am willing to take either man being elected – like I have a choice. What I don’t want to see is an election decided on legal challenges and court battles. I’m hopeful that one slate will win enough of a majority that kvetching after the fact will be a moot point, and so they won’t.

It will also be interesting to look back after the election and see if young, African American, cell phone only and newly registered voters were a wild card or were properly weighted in the polling.

I will be glad to see the political ads off TV.

It Could Happen Again

I am a math guy, so I spend time every day looking at the numbers in the presidential polls. This election is, among other things, fascinating by its mathematical complexity.

Most, not all, polls currently show President Bush with a small lead among likely voters. There’s some question how well the concept of ‘likely voters’ will hold up if this is an election with a very large turnout. Forget that for a moment.

Let’s just say the polls are right, and President Bush takes home a majority of the popular vote. I’m not sure he’ll win. In fact, it is conceivable that Senator Kerry could win the majority of electoral votes without a popular vote plurality.

That would be the Democrats accomplishing the unlikely feat that the Republicans pulled off four years ago. Probability has no memory. Rare events can happen back-to-back.

For the first time tonight, that fact (is fact the right word when all of this is really guesswork piled upon more guesswork?) is headlined on Slate’s home page says:

If America Voted Today – Kerry 276, Bush 262

I’ve been seeing similar numbers when I view statewide polls. Florida is very close – probably too close. But, Pennsylvania looks to be ‘blue’ and now Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan are also leaning that way.

As a kid, I remember the Kennedy – Nixon election of 1960. We went to sleep late at night not knowing who won. It is my earliest remembrance of an election. I figured they’d all be that way, but none were… until 2000.

All night? Hell, we waited weeks to find out what was going on.

Remember hanging chads in Florida? People claimed they meant to vote for Al Gore, but voted for Patrick Buchannon by mistake.

I’m not sure how that was read by the rest of the world, but it probably didn’t show our best side. It could happen again.

In the meantime, watching national polls is now worthless. Watch the individual battleground states because that’s where the election will be won or lost. This is the site I go to most often. It might not be the best, but it’s got lots of numbers. I like numbers.

&#185 – I am saddened to see Slate use a photo of a smiling John Kerry next to a picture of a scowling George Bush. At this point, a news site should be even handed in every way. This is not.

The Great Compromise

Every time I see George Bush or John Kerry on TV, I have an incredible urge to do one thing… jump up and down and say,

Stop the Spin, I Want To Get Off

I watched the debate. I won’t comment on the content or the candidates. This blog is not the place for that&#185.

It held my attention. I’m glad of that. I am anxious to see how many Americans watched it. There seemed to be a lot of buzz beforehand. I don’t speak to too many people after work at 11:35 PM, so I can’t tell now how many actually did watch.

Whether it changes anyone’s mind or not, what a tribute to our way of life that this free and open exchange takes place.

I was curious to see how the debate was received by others, so when I got home I turned the TV on and read a little on the Internet. I’m no babe in the woods here, but I am astounded by all the spin… and astounded that networks and websites depend on it.

If Sony just announced a new line of TVs, I wouldn’t bring on Sony’s sales manager to tell me how they rate. Isn’t that exactly what is being done on TV and in print? Where is the value in partisan’s slavishly praising their boy?

I’m going to use Robert Novak and Paul Begala as examples. This has nothing to do with who does or doesn’t support the president. I just happened to read Novak’s blog on CNN’s website first.

Novak made comments every few moments as the debate progressed and each and every one of them was critical of Kerry. Again, it’s not what Novak is saying that I object to. The question is, where is the benefit in using commentary from someone so intransigent that he only sees one side of the issue?

Didn’t Kerry do anything right? Did Bush do anything wrong? Not to Novak.

Novak’s counterpart, Paul Begala gave George Bush credit for one small point… and everything else went to Kerry. I suppose his giving Bush any ground is a surprise. Still, Begala could have pretty much written this before the debate began.

Being balanced doesn’t mean having two diametrically opposed pundits face off. Balance means using people with open minds who are willing to make observations based on what actually happened, not preconceived positions.

Sometimes your guy is good. sometimes your guy is bad. Hey, that’s life!

I want to read what’s written from your gut, not your doctrine. We’re talking about the presidency. Isn’t this too important for politics as usual?

&#185 – Earlier this evening, a thoughtful reader of this blog posted a comment with his opinion of the debate. I respectfully removed it. This smacks of censorship, because it is. I think it is incredibly important that this site not contain any partisan politics. That decision, right or wrong, is mine alone to make and I hope the commenter understands.

Crunch Time for School

Our 20th wedding anniversary is coming up tomorrow, so I am rushing to finish my school assignments so the day can be free and dedicated to celebrating.

It’s funny, but in the beginning of the school year, Severe Weather was the tough course. Now, it’s Statistical Climatology.

Tonight, doing some homework necessary for a quarterly test, I worked for a half hour on a problem only to realize the data was split between two pages, so I had left half of it out. This problem had dozens of individual little steps. And, after a point, everything became dependent on what you had previously calculated.

When I realized how long it would take to redo everything, I went a little crazy. If only I knew how to do it on a spreadsheet!

I tried getting my friend Bob on Instant Messenger. He’s Mr. Meteorology (actually Dr. Meteorology) and a math wiz. Nothing. So, a quick call to Paul in California who has used spreadsheets for years to do budgets… but never stat work and never using any functions other than add, subtract, multiply and divide. I needed to do square roots and other obscure functions.

As I was hearing about Paul’s limitations, Bob answered the IM call. I hung up on Paul and phoned Bob. In two minutes I had accomplished as much as I had before I discovered my error earlier!

I don’t want to sound like George HW Bush at that Grocery Convention a few years back&#185, but I have no experience with spreadsheets. They were, after all, the first ‘killer app’ for computers – beginning with Visicalc. I should have a working knowledge.

It is astounding what I was able to do, accurately, and in very short order. And, to do the simple stuff was fairly easy. I should be able to go back without trouble.

I am using the spreadsheet built into, which is a Microsoft Office look alike/work alike… and it’s FREE! I would like more if it was supported by books. There are dozens of books on Microsoft Office but hardly anything to buy on

With the homework now finished, tomorrow I can take my tests (actually, later today).

&#185Today, for instance, [Bush] emerged from 11 years in Washington’s choicest executive mansions to confront the modern supermarket.

Visiting the exhibition hall of the National Grocers Association convention here, Mr. Bush lingered at the mock-up of a checkout lane. He signed his name on an electronic pad used to detect check forgeries.

“If some guy came in and spelled George Bush differently, could you catch it?” the President asked. “Yes,” he was told, and he shook his head in wonder.

Then he grabbed a quart of milk, a light bulb and a bag of candy and ran them over an electronic scanner. The look of wonder flickered across his face again as he saw the item and price registered on the cash register screen.

“This is for checking out?” asked Mr. Bush. “I just took a tour through the exhibits here,” he told the grocers later. “Amazed by some of the technology.”

Marlin Fitzwater, the White House spokesman, assured reporters that he had seen the President in a grocery store. A year or so ago. In Kennebunkport.

Some grocery stores began using electronic scanners as early as 1976, and the devices have been in general use in American supermarkets for a decade.

From The New York Times