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.

How We Change Our Mind

This is actually related to my last entry. In it, I pointed out how, early Wednesday morning, the NWS changed their forecast thinking radically over the course of an hour or so.

I don’t mean to pick on NWS. Their forecasts are normally excellent. It would be unfair to judge them based on a single forecast.

I have been through the same angst they experienced, but my forecasts aren’t as well documented. That’s why they’re being used as my example – convenience, nothing more.

How do we change our minds? In most cases, change in thought comes gradually, but there’s usually a tipping point when you go from one way of thinking to the other. That point is not, as you might think, simply where evidence on one side outweighs evidence on the other.

My first experience with this was in the 60s, with the Vietnam War. I was, as were most, a supporter of that war in its earlier days&#185.

I remember doing a term paper on Vietnam for a class. I sat in the Jamaica Public Library and tried to balance arguments. I couldn’t. The preponderance of what I read made me think we shouldn’t be there.

I rode the Q17 bus home feeling conflicted. It was a significant enough episode to remember 40 years later. Yet, even in the face of that evidence and deep contemplative thought, I continued to support the war.

I did later change my mind, probably sometime in ’67 or ’68, and became fervently anti-Vietnam. My realignment came long after the my internal balance of evidence had shifted. Looking back, I’m sorry I waited so long.

Isn’t that strange? Even when my better judgment should have pointed me one way, my earlier decisions made it much more difficult.

My suspicions say that’s what happened last night at the Weather Service. I wasn’t there, but I’ve been through many similar forecast decisions. What you’ve called for isn’t going to happen… and yet you don’t want to let go of the forecast.

Is it an ego thing? Is there a worry the mere act of having been wrong is a blemish to be avoided?

Flip flopping was portrayed as a weakness when John Kerry ran for president. Is it possible having the ability to easily flip flop is really a positive trait?

Making that second decision… overruling your first call… is the weightier of the two processes. It takes much more evidence to change an opinion than to form a similar opinion in the abstract.

I’m not sure what’s to be learned from this, except to say it seems better to make these radical shifts in opinion sooner, rather than later. That’s much easier said than done.

&#185 – Actually, in its earliest days, American involvement in Vietnam was so small and obscure, few realized we were there and even fewer cared.

The Election is Finally Over

In a half hour, John Kerry will concede. Later this afternoon President Bush was make his victory speech. There are wounds to be healed. Bad blood on both sides. Are we big enough to rise to that occasion?

One last thing on the polls, and then I’m done with this election thing. Last night, Zogby published a projection based on exit polls and who knows what else. In his scenario published Tuesday evening at 5:00, Kerry won 311 electoral votes!

Today, there’s this

Statement from John Zogby on 2004 Presidential Election Results:

Why Drudge Isn’t Like Real News

I check back with Drudgreport.com a number of times ever day. There are good links – interesting stuff. But there is a difference between Matt Drudge and a mainstream news site. Here’s an example.

It started with this headline in bold type: KERRY CAMPAIGN FINDS COMFORT IN FIRST BATCH OF EXIT POLLS, accompanied by this text:

Election 2004 has been rocked with first wave of exit polls which show Kerry competitive in key states, campaign and media sources tell DRUDGE…. National Election Pool — representing six major news organization — shows Kerry in striking distance — with small lead — in Florida and Ohio.. MORE…

Later, a little meat was added to the first statements.

Election 2004 has been rocked with first wave of morning exit polls which show Kerry competitive in key states, campaign and media sources tell DRUDGE…. National Election Pool — representing six major news organization — shows Kerry in striking distance — with small lead — in Florida and Ohio.. MORE…

—– AZ CO LA MI WI PA OH FL MI NM MN WI IA NH

Kerry 45 48 42 51 52 60 52 51 51 50 58 52 49 57

-Bush 55 51 57 48 48 40 48 48 47 48 40 43 49 41

Those numbers were pretty unbelievable for the Kerry camp and very different from the closing polls. Still, as I had speculated earlier, there were variables that might have made the polls untrustworthy. So, maybe this turnaround was true.

Instead, it seems Drudge was untrustworthy

Exit poll mania spread through media and campaign circles Tuesday afternoon after first wave of morning data showed Kerry competitive in key states…. National Election Pool — representing six major news organization — shows Kerry in striking distance — with small 1% lead — in Florida and Ohio, sources tell DRUDGE… [But early 2000 exit polls showed Gore +3 in Florida]… Senate races: Thune +4 Castor +3 Burr +6 Bunning +6 Coburn +6 Demint +4 Salazar +4…

So, what’s right, what’s wrong? I still don’t know. But I do know that Drudge’s rush to ‘print’ muddied the waters for a while.

And, while I’ve been typing, he’s changed it again!

Exit poll mania spread through media and campaign circles Tuesday afternoon after first wave of morning data showed Kerry competitive in key states…. National Election Pool — representing six major news organization — shows Kerry in striking distance — with small 1% lead — in Florida and Ohio, sources tell DRUDGE… [But early 2000 exit polls showed Gore +3 in Florida; showed Gore-Bush even in CO [Bush won by 9], exits showed Gore +4 in AZ [Bush won by 6]… Exits Senate races: Thune +4 Castor +3 Burr +6 Bunning +6 Coburn +6 Demint +4 Salazar +4…

Maybe instant news isn’t a good idea?

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.

RealPolitics.com predicts George Bush wins the electoral college.

Slate.com 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.com&#185. 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.

Going to the Candidates Debate

I am poised for tonight’s presidential debate from Coral Gables. Like hurricane coverage that starts two days before the storm arrives, the TV pundits have run out of valuable things to say.

Here’s my point: Debates can affect elections.

As close as it was, Al Gore’s horrendously stiff show in the last election debates probably cost him the presidency. Remember ‘lock box,’ a phrase he obviously wanted to get in no matter what was asked?

There was Ronald Reagan’s “there you go again” to Walter Mondale, Gerald Ford’s premature freeing of Poland from communist rule, and Richard Nixon’s five o’clock shadow.

Tonight I hope it’s not a gaffe that eliminates one man from the presidency, but a realization by the voters of where they stand vis a vis the other.

I recently watched an entire George Bush campaign stop on ABC World Now. There was no commentary and no cut aways. Bush was masterful. I was extremely impressed at his warm, folksy style. To see it used so effectively was unexpected, to say the least. If he can pull that off in this debate (of course in a campaign appearance he never faces critical commentary or questions from his audience as he will tonight), Kerry might as well start wind surfing tomorrow.

On the other hand, for the first time, Kerry gets seen in context with the president. Will he look presidential, compared to the man who currently defines that role? If he does, that goes a long way to calming some fears.

How will he handle the charge of flip flop? If John Kerry changes that perception, Bush has a much tougher opponent for the next 33 or so days.

Will either candidate attack the other? If so, how will the voters react? It can be looked at as a sign of strength, or the trait of a desperate man, depending on how the attack is wielded.

This will be very interesting to watch. I’ll be glued to my seat.

Dirty Politics

There’s a campaign of negative advertising going on right now. It is aimed at John Kerry and sponsored by an organization which claims to be separate from the Republican Party. That’s what brings what I’m about to say to mind.

Negative advertising works.

I am not passing judgment on Senator Kerry or President Bush or even the Swift Boat Veterans group which is paying for the ads. All that will wash out over time, and it’s my intention to stay non-partisan here.

Negative advertising is the perfect political ploy because it satisfies two objectives. It puts your opponent on the defensive and it keeps him from setting his own agenda. So, a candidate is forced to abandon his strengths to shore up his weakness. Brilliant.

The fact that this is often done by surrogates (and the Democrats have their surrogates too) allows the candidate not being tarred to stay above it all.

Negative ads are used because they work. They change minds. They cause supporters to question their commitment. They sway the undecided.

You can get people to vote against a candidate. Until that changes, mud will continue to be thrown.

The Presidential Elections

I’m not sure why, but I asked my father if he had seen many TV commercials for the presidential candidates yet. Here in Connecticut, other than those we see nationally from CNN, Fox and MSNBC, there have been none. It’s a different story in Florida, or so says my dad.

He began to describe some ads he’s seen. It was immediately obvious to me that I hadn’t seen them here.

It’s April and he’s already sick of the candidates’ spots… both candidates.

Why should a presidential candidate buy time on Connecticut TV stations? This state is pretty much a lock for John Kerry. On the other hand, Florida (as made clear in the last election – remember the hanging chads) is somewhat up in the air.

The ability to easily ‘zone’ your advertising buy has turned our presidential elections from a nation contest to 50 individual contests… some conceded early on. There have been nuances along this line before, but it’s only now when money can be spent with razor sharp accuracy, that picking your battles has become so effective.

Unfortunately, it leaves states like Connecticut on the short end. Certainly an incumbent who doesn’t feel he’ll win Connecticut won’t promise us anything… but neither will a challenger who already feels we’re in his back pocket.

Rumors have been swirling about the possible closing the the Groton Sub Base. Would the question have even been floated if we were in play?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out after the conventions, when the political rhetoric and fervor pick up. My suspicion is, we’ve been marginalized out of national politics.

Happy New Year Dick Clark

It’s a family tradition that we don’t go out on New Year’s Eve. There are a few really simple reasons for this. First, I usually work. Second, we don’t drink.

Years ago, the last time we really went out for New Year’s, a drunk guy started making a pass at my wife. In fact (though we laugh about it now) we almost broke up on our first pre-marriage New Year’s Eve together.

This year, we stayed home with Steffie and watched some of the goings on in Times Square. Helaine said she wasn’t, but I was very worried that some masterstroke terrorist act would take place in Times Square while the World watched.

Though we moved back and forth between Fox, MTV and ABC, we mostly stayed with ABC. Sure, I work for an affiliate, but there is also a tradition with Dick Clark. Again this year, for at least the second year in a row, Dick was inside a warm studio above Times Square. I’m sorry. He needs to be outside. And last night, the weather wasn’t all that bad.

I was also upset at the use of Steve Doocey – who represents Fox News Channel’s morning show – as ‘talent.’ This is not to say Steve isn’t good… he is. But, this is another case of cutting your nose to spite your face. Why would ABC want to shine such a bright spotlight on someone who is trying to eat their lunch? Doesn’t anyone in the company realize that using talent from other networks is the equivalent of dumping the Disneyland live shots for Six Flags or Universal?

There was a pretty tough article on Dick Clark in Newsday recently. I’ve attached it to this link.

Maybe because I knew most of this before, or maybe just because it’s becoming more obvious now, I have trouble finding Dick warm and likable. His interaction with others, especially on ‘tosses’ from live shots, or look live taped pieces, is forced and a little too staged.

On the other hand, I’m not ready to cede New Year’s Eve to Ryan Seacrest or the stable of hosts on MTV (none of whom stick out in my mind).

Happy 2004

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