Instead of Overbooking……

Nobody asked, but I have the answer to airline company overbooking, and I learned it in the summer of 1965 while on a graduate Russian language study tour of the USSR.  The tour was managed by Indiana University and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Our group, 25 high school Russian language teachers, showed up at the airport for a flight from one Soviet city to another. We were on time.  In fact, we were a bit early. Our departure time came and went, and we waited.  And waited.  Finally the professor in charge of our little group asked whether the flight had been cancelled, the aircraft was in need of repair, or what other reason explained why we were waiting for more than 2 hours for our flight. The answer: “We are waiting for more passengers to fill the seats that are still vacant.”

Problem solved.  Instead of overbooking, just don’t take off until the seats are all spoken for.

And thank you for flying Aeroflot.

The Bully Pulpit, part two

“The Bully Pulpit,”

The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt,

by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Writing this a few days after the 2016 election of a man who lacks even a trace of so many of the attributes of any president in my lifetime, I’m searching for anything that will give me some hope. As so often has been the case, returning to a history book read a year or two ago has provided a bit of rescue.

A little over a hundred years ago Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, was thrust into the presidency of a country in crisis. Elected to his own term after completing the term of the assassinated William McKinley, Roosevelt confronted a widening gap between the rich and the poor a struggling middle class, and a country dealing with scores of other serious problems stemming from the Industrial Revolution.

“Yet by the end of Roosevelt’s tenure in the White House, a mood of reform had swept the country, creating a new kind of presidency and a new vision of the relationship between the government and the people. A series of anti-trust suits had been won and legislation passed to regulate railroads, strengthen labor rights, curb political corruption, end corporate campaign contributions, impose limits on the working day, protect consumers from unsafe food and drugs, and conserve vast swaths of natural resources for the American people.”

An impressive list of achievements that helped America continue to be great. Those who supported those achievements were then called “Progressives.”

We will be vigilant and active while watching to see whether governance during the next four years will transcend the regrettable, bizarre and often insulting campaign tactics of the last eighteen months.

Will the changes be progressive or will they take us backward?

Congress: How Did Americans Like It Then?

The Russians I met back in 1965 on a study tour of the then Soviet Union may have had it right with their observation about the superiority of their legislature vs. Western legislatures, that one could tell simply by their names. Back then I heard from several Russian friends that while the British legislature is called parliament, from the French “to speak,” and the American legislature is called Congress, from the Latin “to congregate” (have a meeting, so to speak), the Russian legislature is the Duma, from the Russian verb “to think.”

Since I was a guest in their country at the time, and a polite guest by nature, I went along with their joke.

But recently I found in my book club’s monthly read a discussion about our Congress and how much Americans have more contempt than love for the institution. Those of us who haven’t made it our life’s work to ensure President Obama never hears a kind word are especially prone to view Congress as obstructionist. Witness the Senate’s refusal to even consider a Supreme Court nominee.

But the dismal amount of popularity for Congress isn’t exactly a new thing, and here is modest, historical proof, a ditty about the very first Congress, the Continental Congress of 1776:

“These hardy knaves and stupid fools, Some apish and pragmatic mules, Some servile acquiescing tools, These, these compose the Congress!

When Jove resolved to send a curse, And all the woes of life rehearse, Not plague, not famine, but much worse, He cursed us with a Congress.”

(Source: “A More Perfect Constitution, Larry J. Sabato, 2007, Walker Publishing, Chapter 1, Note 1. Quoted from the 1776 Pennsylvania Evening Post.)

The Clinton/Lynch Conspiracy

Note: the following is intended to be sarcasm; that is, a false but I hope a slightly humorous take on a current event that apparently has thousands of people in an absolute snit.

When a former President (Clinton) happens to wander over to say hello to the present Attorney General (Lynch) on an airport tarmac between flights, there can only be several reasons for that.  As a public service, I offer the following reasons to explain Mr. Clinton’s actions on that fateful day.

He recognized the AG and wanted to acknowledge the excellent work she is doing.

He wanted to try to convince the AG to encourage the indictment of his wife so he wouldn’t suffer the indignity of becoming the nation’s “First Gentleman.”

The flight attendants on his aircraft had run out of his favorite bourbon and he sought to borrow some from the AG.

His aircraft had broken down and he wanted a ride.

He had heard that the AG’s aircraft had broken down and wanted to offer her a ride.

He wanted to show the AG photos of his new grandchildren.

He wanted to see photos of the AG’s grandchildren.

He knew that talking to the AG on an airport tarmac for twenty (?) minutes would unravel Donald Trump for at least three weeks.

He wanted to make certain the AG was aware that restrooms on commercial aircraft were available to anyone, LGBT or regular, with one exception: if your seat was in coach you couldn’t use the first class restroom.

Take your pick. I submit that these reasons make just as much if not more sense than what I’ve been reading the past several days.

Justice of the First U.S. Supreme Court

Had occasion to visit the James Iredell House in Edenton, NC yesterday.

James Iredell Sr. played an important role in North Carolina’s adoption of the U.S. Constitution and was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President George Washington.

He was confrimed two days later.

It was a simpler time, although it could be argued that Washington and James Iredell, Sr. wouldn’t say so. If we could ask them…..

Surprise Medical Bills

Just read about a woman who had surgery on her thumb to remedy the effects of arthritis that made using her thumbs painful. (“You Only Think You’re Covered,” by Haley Sweetland Edwards, p. 44, TIME, March 14, 2016). The surgery went well; she regained full use of the thumb and went ahead with the same surgery on her other thumb.

She had checked with her health insurance provider before the surgery to ensure the procedure was covered and the providers (surgeon and hospital) were in-network. The first surprise bill for $6,300 didn’t arrive until some time after she had the operation on her other thumb. Now she’s waiting for the second $6,300 surprise bill.

Turns out the anesthesiologist was not in network and the device implanted in her thumbs was not covered.

This morning my wife showed me a report from her health insurance provider listing several tests that had been performed on blood work done by an in-network laboratory. All but two of the tests were listed as in-network and resulted in modest copays. Surprise! The other two were listed as not in-network and carried the full charge. She has yet to receive a bill for this lab work, which was done several weeks ago.

What, if anything, can consumers do about surprise charges that arrive weeks and sometimes months later? I see the following alternatives:

      1. Just pay up and shut up, or…..

      2. Don’t sign the paper they give you that describes the extra charges that might be coming your way. This may delay your health care a while, but might be worth the wait.

      3. Request a list of all of the providers that may be involved in your procedure, preferably before you are wheeled into the operating room and sedated, so you can check to make sure they are all in-network. (Warning: watch out for in-network hospitals that have out-of-network departments.)

      4. Request the make and model of any devices to be used so you can find out whether your insurance will pay for them.

      5. For blood work, request a list of the tests to be performed and showing which are in-network, which are not, and the cost of each.

      6. Get all in-network promises and device approvals in writing, preferably a week or two before you are sedated.

      7. Ask whether there are any “facilities” charges that will not be covered by your health insurance.

      8. If you do all you can to avoid surprise charges and still get a surprise bill, ask for an audit of the coding that produced the charges.

Take action: appeal surprise charges. Complain. Change providers and hospitals. One can hope that at some point hospitals, doctors and insurance companies will some day all feel they are making enough money without hoodwinking their patients and customers, but I’m not holding my breath.

Good grief……


Vets will recognize the title as the military acronym “Situation Report.” Today I'm a bit stuck for a title because I have several observations, commentaries, etc., as I pursue what a friend has called imitating the late Andy Rooney.  Would that I were that talented, but 
here goes anyway, a kind of situation report for a chilly February day in 2016.

First, have you noticed the burgeoning number of ready-to-eat stuff in the grocery stores?The deli displays are captivating.  Except for the fried chicken I have to have about once a month, I don't know how those dishes taste, but they sure look good.  And opening a 
can of soup and heating it is apparently too challenging for today's consumers.  Now you can buy soup in those little plastic things you use to make coffee in your Keurig brewer.  And I'm looking at coupons for Pace and Prego “Ready Meals” and Campbell's “Oven 
Sauces.”  Do you think the  much loved military MRE's (Meals Ready-To-Eat) will soon be available at your local supermarket?

My granddaughter attended a Saturday morning class intended to involve more girls in 
coding.  Back in the day we called it programming.  When did it become coding?  Not 
that the word isn't appropriate.  I remember writing programs for then popular IBM 
computers (circa 1963-67) that couldn't do what a cell phone can do today.  Many of 
those programs were written in Autocoder.  We also programmed in FORTRAN and 
COBOL, which, along with Autocoder, were then known as “compilers.”  Compliers 
were programs themselves, programs that translated what we did in Autocoder, 
FORTRAN and COBOL into “machine language.”  I just read those sentences again and no longer wonder why people thought we computer types were speaking a foreign
language.  I guess coding is the better word.

And a recent report from the OECD quoted in TIME Magazine, 2/15/2016, at page 13, 
shows that “People in the U.S. and England ages 16 to 19 are among the most illiterate in the developed world.”  May explain why a recent Facebook posting proved once again 
that the average college student, at Stanford no less, couldn't name the Vice President or amember of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Bet you are wondering what in the world is OECD? Me too, so I looked it up:  The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)  Google OECD – it's a very interesting outfit based in Paris.

And to finish on a lighter note, a friend asked his Facebook friends to tell us about their 
first cars, a request that produced a number of interesting stories and wonderful photos.  My 1947 Ford Coupe looked something like this:
Well, it had the same shape anyway.  You can buy this one for $50,000. Wish I still had mine.  Loved the rumble seat, the 2-panel windshield, the ignition switch and button starter, and the purchase price of $50.  Yes, that is $49,950 less than the one in the photo.  
I bought mine from a guy who was shipping out of Army Language School in Monterey, CA, and sold it a few months later for $50 when I shipped out.

And finally, a word about my name.  My diploma from Mt. Carmel H.S., Chicago, IL,
contains the name Joseph David Bohlin.  I am still Skip, the name my mother used, to mysisters and cousins.  I am Joe to most everyone I played ball with and to everyone to whom I didn't want to have to explain Einar.  When I appeared in the Cook County Clerk's Office, at the age of 17 and 4 months, for a copy of my birth certificate to furnish to the U.S. Air Force, the nice lady gave me a copy for Einar Bohlin.  I told her that was my father, but she pointed out that my father, Einar Axel Bohlin, was listed in the box titled “Father,” and that my legal name was Einar Bohlin.  No Joseph, no David, and not even my 
Confirmation name (Christopher).  Just “Einar NMN Bohlin,” no middle name.  Looking back, I wish I'd stuck with Skip.  It was preppy before preppy was cool......