Advice . . .

From a reader . . .

I've just come across the new Dreamland book - good placement in two different stores - I was very glad to catch up w/the Stockards, but had the plot figured wrong--I thought Teri would take out Stoner with a shot right between the eyes. Maybe next time.....?
Medical math

In my left hand is a bill from the doctor. In my left hand is a copy of the insurance company's processing of a claim for the same service.

The doctor's bill claims they sent the insurance company a bill for $140.

The insurance company, which provides an itemized list of the billed services, says they were billed $73.

The insurance company says they paid $25, because a) the doctor charged $20 for something not covered and b) overcharged for the rest.

The doctor claims he got $47.79. (Not counting the $50 copay for the visit.)

The doctor says I owe $10.46. Why exactly isn't clear, since his math isn't even in the ballpark. ($140 minus $47.79? Or even $73 minus $47.79?)

The insurance company doesn't say I owe anything, but if the $20 charge isn't covered, obviously that would be the likely amount.

So what do I do?

Write a check for $10.46 and go have a beer.

Some people are paying attention. (Check out #4.)

(But is it true more people know the game?)
Rangers at Dieppe

A couple of people have asked about the photo where the Ranger was misidentified as a Canadian. This is it. Ranger Henry is in the middle distance.

For a full explanation and a better picture, you can check out Rangers at Dieppe, available on line at B&N, among others, here. (I got the hint that this might be an American from a Canadian; the full story is in the book.)
Larry's new game

Persian Incursion is a simulation war game that presents a timely what-if: What if Israel tried to take out Iran's nukes? Could it?

The answer: it depends. (But it's definitely doable.)

You can order the game here, among other places.
There is no border there


NATO today denied a report saying that top U.S. military commanders are considering launching elite ground raids into Pakistan to try to capture or kill militants along the border with Afghanistan, and speed up security gains before American troops start pulling out in July 2011.

There have been numerous stories and accounts in all sorts of places explaining a) why this is necessary and b) the fact that, contrary to news accounts . . . well, never mind.

If you're going to deal with the "militants," you have to hit them where they live. Giving them safe haven anywhere, let alone in a place where they've been steadily intermarrying and otherwise integrating into the social fabric, makes exactly zero sense.

Pretending otherwise is ridiculous.

And I'm waiting for someone to show me the thick bright line on the ground between the two countries.
Thanks Texas

Marc, Ben, Jim, and y'all - we appreciate your hospitality.
Bad news for Iran


A test of the United States' only long-range missile defense system failed Wednesday -- the second failure this year in two tries.

The Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency said both the intermediate-range ballistic missile target and the long-range interceptor missile launched successfully, radar and sensors worked properly and the "kill vehicle" deployed. But the "kill vehicle" didn't hit the target.

"Program officials will conduct an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the failure to intercept the target," the agency said. "The next flight test will be determined after identification of the cause of the failure."

The less chance of intercepting their missiles, the more chance of an attack.

(CNN story here. Eventually, this WILL work. It's just a question of when "eventually" is . . .)

More on a Dieppe Ranger

I was recently very lucky to be contacted by some of the surviving members of Howard Henry's family.

Readers of Rangers at Dieppe may remember that Henry died on the beach during the attack; I was able to determine that he's the American misidentified as a Canadian in one of the most famous photos of the battle and its aftermath.

The family was kind enough to provide me with some additional information, and help me correct one thing that's wrong in the book. Contrary to what I had thought from my research, Henry was not shipped back to the U.S. after the war, but rather is buried in Normandy.

(If you haven't read the book: Attached as an observer to a Canadian unit, he went out on one of the bloodiest beaches. There's no real indication of when or exactly how he died, but even getting out of the landing craft at that point would have taken an immense amount of courage.)

Interestingly, Herman had been in the cavalry before going to Europe and joining the Rangers. I haven't looked through all the records, but that may make him one of the few original Rangers with that background.

He was T-4 at the time of his death; that would be roughly the equivalent of a sergeant today. You generally got that rank because of a service specialty, but at this point I'm not sure what Henry's was. It wasn't listed in the original records.

I'll post more updates as I get them. (You can go my Rangers at Dieppe website here; I haven't updated it with the new information yet.)
The trouble with tracking . . .

. . . is that you see that the material that absolutely had to be there by Monday 9 a.m. sharp won't be picked up until Wednesday because everyone's taking an extra long weekend.
Taxes and Cliff Lee

In the frenzy over whether Cliff Lee will choose the Yankees or the Rangers, a number of sports reporters have generated stories on how Texas has a huge advantage over NY because of the state and city tax rates.

Hopefully the reporters get someone else to do their taxes.

First of all, in Lee's bracket, the tax professionals do a heck of a lot more than pump in a couple W2s on the return and efile the sucker. Tax planning is an art as well as a science. But just to show how silly the whole process is, let's say for the sake of argument that by playing in New York, Lee will subject himself to state and city taxes at the highest rates - 8.6 percent and 3.65.

That's 12.2 percent. Of course, that's the highest rate, not the actual effective rate, but why quibble?

At $23 million a year - I'm arbitrarily choosing the $140/6 year offer - that would work out to $2.8 mil a year in taxes. Decent money, even for a millionaire. (It's also where most of the first wave of stories stop.)

Except that Lee almost certainly wouldn't live in NYC, so he'd only be taxed on the games that he played here (the rest are taxed by the other cities, just as they would be if he were a Ranger). So slice that bill in half = $1.4 million.

Thing is, he also gets some credit on his federal tax return for paying local taxes, the same as you do. Even a simple return starts to get complicated from this point, but even with generous rounding in the government's favor the bill is down to $1 million per year. That's not even half the amount of extra money he'd pick up in endorsements in NYC over Texas. Even if he didn't want to do those endorsements, do you really feel the Yankees would lose Lee over a million dollars a year?

The truth is, Lee's choice ISN'T going to be about money, let alone taxes. He's getting a boatload no matter what. If he chooses Texas over the Yankees, it's not going to be because the state doesn't have income tax - it's because he wants to play there. And vice versa.

Whichever team he doesn't choose will just have to live with that.
Bea Arthur was a Marine . . .

... and would have made a good drill sergeant as that.

Story here.
A national disgrace


The Senate fell three votes short of mustering enough support to pass a
bill offering health care benefits and compensation to the ill Ground Zero
workers who cleaned up the mess after the 9/11 attacks.

The congressmen opposing this ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Congratulations to the SpaceX Falcon* team on their successful launch.

* One of the models for Helios. Sorta. Kinda. In a way.
Big Brother ponders the future . . .


Computerworld - The retaliatory attacks by pro-WikiLeaks activists are growing in strength as hackers add botnets and thousands of people download an open-source attack tool, security researchers said today.

What lesson do you figure Iran, China, et al, are drawing from this?

And which Western country do you think will be the first to "license" internet channels?

(Full story here.)
A wakeup call


Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educators

The fact that they're stunned is the real news. Maybe in another twenty years they'll actually start addressing the situation with something more than misguided pablum and time-wasting bs.

From the body of the story:

“I know skeptics will want to argue with the results, but we consider them to be accurate and reliable, and we have to see them as a challenge to get better,” he added. “The United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated.”

He is Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education. The fact that he actually realizes there's a problem is something, I guess.

Full story is here. Check the graphic out and see how we rank behind places like Poland, Hungary . . .
Christmas spirit . . .

We were up at West Point Sunday, in time to stop in at the West Point Band's holiday concert.

It was a great show. I even got to sing . . . fortunately with a thousand or so other people drowning me out.

'Twas the Night Before Hanukkah* brought the house down - gotta be a first for a Christmas concert.

Who says the Army's not fun?

* By Kenny Ellis, who appeared with the band and the NY Philharmonic Principal Brass Quintet, along with Mst. Sergeant Mary Kay Messenger and Stf. Sgt. Alexis Cole. He did some songs from his CD, Hanukkah Swings. Check his website out here.
Printer problems*

Printer problem in Iraq - Watch more Funny Videos

This is how I'm feeling today . . .

* A classic. HP, HP. . .
Hope for us alll . . .

Star Spangled Banner to Be Sold at Auction -
Missing T makes Star Spangled Banner worth $300,000

. . . One unique feature of the first edition is that it contains a noticeable misspelling. "Carr was in such a hurry to rush this into print that he worked carelessly and misspelled the word patriotic," says Coover, pointing out that Carr listed it as pariotic (see gallery above). "Carr also omitted Francis Scott Key's name as poet."

The typo clinched the copy's authenticity. So you see? I insert all those mistakes so the book will be more valuable . . .
Not even a minor deity?

Her: Is the fact that Caligula thought he was a god a matter of erroneous perception, or a comprehension problem?

Me: Are you saying he wasn't?
China in the middle?


One thing I don't understand when it comes to North Korea - why does anyone in the U.S. want China to mediate?

If they're successful in ending the North Korean-manufactured "crisis", they've strengthened their role as a growing superpower region. And if they're not successful, they've prolonged a crisis that serves their other interests.

From China's perspective, conflict between the two Koreas has been one more stick to use as leverage when dealing with the U.S.: "We may be waging currency war against you, but if you retaliate, North Korea may just blow up Seoul."

The truth is, China doesn't have as much influence over North Korea as seems to be commonly assumed. It can't stop North Korea from attacking the south, let alone change the country's paranoid narcissistic nationalism.

The real solution is for South Korea to prove that North Korea is a paper tiger. The problem is that South Korea is not prepared for an actual war, let alone one where nuclear weapons might be used.

If North Korea continues to back itself a corner, real conflict is inevitable. the miracle is that it hasn't happened yet.