Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 15, 2013 by a4synapse

From Reuters:


Here’s the Link.

The article is about Barbara Mikulski, senior Senator from Maryland and one of the longest serving senators. She’s pint-size – 4’11” (why is this even mentioned?) It’s written by Jason Lange, and I’m not familiar with his work or his general sentiments. I have rarely read a so-called news article that is as replete with negative inference disguised as fact. Charming remarks about her ‘reputation’ and oodles of prejudice wrapped up in nouns, verbs and adjectives.

To wit:

Her long record of securing “earmarks” – the practice of budgeting money for specific projects that has fallen into disfavor in Washington – also reveals a set of priorities that has made her one of America’s most liberal lawmakers.

She has, for example, marshaled funds to clean up polluted waterways and improve schools in poor neighborhoods nationwide.

Cleaning up polluted waterways has fallen out of favor? Improving schools in poor neighborhoods? Does Mr. Lange realize that Maryland lies athwart one of the most valuable and yet polluted freshwater bodies in the United States? Does Mr. Lange realize that Baltimore is one of the poorest and most violent cities in the U. S. and that bad schools are directly correlated with poverty and violence? Any responsible senator would beg and borrow (I’m leaving ‘steal’ out of the idiom) to fix these problems in their home state. Why is this a bad thing? From the way it’s written, the reader is invited to believe that money to improve these things just vanishes. The Chesapeake Bay is an important resource for fishing, recreation, transportation, tourism and industry. Good schools are critical to thriving economies.

And this little gem:

Known for her temper, Mikulski is frequently seen complaining about the throngs of people blocking the Senate chamber entrance. She has consistently endured the barbs of anonymous critics who participate in Washingtonian Magazine’s Capitol Hill survey and rank her among the Senate’s most irritable members.

Just call her a bitch. Male senators do not have to endure commentary of this sort. They get called ‘righteous’ or ‘fiery’, or ‘fighting for their convictions’; that’s a good thing.

And this is laughable:

As appropriations chair, Mikulski will face tough choices pitting her liberal priorities – she opposed the invasion of Iraq, for example – against her inclinations to boost defense spending in her state, which is home to major military bases like Fort Meade.

I say this makes her smart and far-sighted. The U. S. spends ten times what the next five nations combined spend on defense (and most of them are our allies).

And then this:

Many observers were surprised Mikulski – the third in line for the chairmanship – stepped into the role following the death last month of committee chairman Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. The senators in front of her declined to take the helm.

Maybe she saw an important and difficult job that had to be done and stepped up.

Haven’t we been here before?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 4, 2013 by a4synapse

Somewhere in 1998-1999, I was having a conversation with a financial whiz kid. Congress was preparing to repeal Glass-Steagall. I thought it was a terrible idea then and I still do. So I am referring to two articles today. One is in Bloomberg here. It’s a review of the Basel agreements that set the rules for banks internationally.  The second is in The Atlantic and discusses bank accounting here.

As I understand it, the Bloomberg article describes how regulations for banks have become considerably more complex and banks with accountants and attorneys have developed more and better ways to cheat. Since the rules are complicated, fewer individuals understand them fully. So the rules are trickier to understand and harder to enforce. In addition, the banks have more money on their balance sheets. The considered opinion of experts is that banks are more highly leveraged than ever, and it is impossible, even for sophisticated people to understand their exposure to risk.

The Atlantic article mentions that reporting requirements for banks do not help to understand how the banks make or lose money. Annual statements are not helpful. There is little transparency in the system, even though four major government agencies oversee the financial sector.

So, it looks as though we are setting ourselves up for meltdown redux. Can’t wait.

More Shouting – How was god involved?

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10, 2012 by a4synapse

You may recall  that in the run-up to the Republican convention in Tampa that there was a lot of praying involved to change the course of Isaac so that it didn’t wipe out the convention completely. As it was, the convention opened a day late and a victory for prayer was proclaimed. The subtext here: ‘god is on our side’.

Karl Rove, inimitable and irrepressible, claimed that Sandy, the second hurricane to appear in the republican narration of this election, impeded the ‘big mo’ of the Romney campaign and this led to defeat at the polls in critical swing states (never mind that it was necessary for so many reasons and the only cosmetically safe thing for the campaign to do). Has it occurred to anyone that god may have been expressing an opinion through Isaac and Sandy?

There is no disputing that Republicans/Conservatives have been living in a fact bubble, and that this, more than anything led to defeat at the polls. My question: what will it take to burst the bubble and reengage nearly 45% of the American public in political discussion that will help us to resolve our issues as a nation?

The Shouting

Posted in Uncategorized on November 8, 2012 by a4synapse

$390 million: spent on: WHAT? Then there’s schadenfreude. We won’t indulge in too much of that, it’s unseemly. Now, we get to watch a new civil war and some grisly self-evisceration. Watching a group of supposedly intelligent people suffer a very rude awakening is instructive and humbling. It’s a prime example of ‘believing what you want to believe’.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of folks.

It’s one thing to be stupid. It’s quite another to be self-righteous about it. They deserve this comeuppance.

Mendacious Mitt

Posted in Uncategorized on October 31, 2012 by a4synapse

We’re in the final sixteenth of the race to the election. I am, sometimes to my sorrow, a high information voter. I read the wonkies and try to understand statistics, probability and the laws that govern our elections.

There is something affectionately named: low-information voter or ‘late-decider’. As of this post, many polls of varying respectability show that the race is tied or within the margin of error nationwide. What interests me and shows a distressing carelessness, is that a nationwide poll (and it doesn’t matter if they’re registered or likely voters) is irrelevant, and this ought to be stated at the top of the article.

Tied: 50% feel one way, 50% feel the other. And I think I speak  for everyone: Half of the respondents are completely ignorant and wrong. If the other guy wins, we’re on the road to disaster. Only X can save us.

Only we can save us. That’s where the ‘demo’ in democracy comes from. Having spent considerable time attending local government events, I can say with some authority that 80-90% of the persons who attend local government have no clue how government works.

The Romney campaign has promulgated two lies that it demonstrably feels will garner votes among the low information late deciders.

1. The Obama administration sold Chrysler to Fiat and the Fiat-Chrysler corporation is planning to relocate Jeep production to China.

2. The Obama administration has eliminated the ‘work’ part from the welfare to work equation that originated in the Clinton administration.

This guy lies if he thinks it will get him what he wants. So vote for him. He’ll tell you what he thinks you want to hear.


Posted in Uncategorized on October 24, 2012 by a4synapse

Yes, I’m a puzzle addict. The first I remember was a square wooden puzzle. Word puzzles (if the yellow house is next to the house where the dogs live, what house is next to that?). Beat Tetris, beat Mario Bros. Terrible at Space Invaders, although it cost $ to play. Sudoku regular and sudoku with the 16 squares. Was never able to solve Rubik’s, but never tried really. Quit sudoku; quit snood; can’t quit spider solitaire, though. It just keeps dragging me back in.

Someone thinks that Tetris addiction stems from our need for order. I’ll go along with that. But I know that it is rooted in the deep-seated need to control. What interests me is the tickle in my mind, usually while waiting for something. It’s impossible to control sometimes, and it’s abetted by the ease of opening a game.

NYT front page: NY Islanders to Brooklyn (yay!), credit card breach at Barnes & Noble (is nothing sacred?), gloomy notes on the election and the risk of destroying middle class living standards, and an unarmed man was shot to death by a neighbor: because he was in the neighbor’s garage at the time, no charges were brought.

This drives me to solving puzzles. I know that’s a sorry excuse. At least I’m paying attention.


Posted in Uncategorized on October 8, 2012 by a4synapse

Less than a month before the election. Everyone has an opinion; why not? New polls nearly every day. Known road markers are the veep debate, and the two presidential debates. I agree that Romney was on his game for the first; I’m not sure what it means. I do feel that anyone who changed their opinion of this election based on the debate is not paying attention to long term trends in this country. The most objectionable opinion I’ve read is the one(s) about how maybe Obama doesn’t want the job anymore. To which I say: you have no clue what he deals with; so STFU.

W. M. Romney is the zelig candidate: the nowhere man.

There is only one poll that matters; it’s semi-amusing to read the hand-wringing prognostication that fills web pages every day. It’s also becoming tendentious and self-fulfilling on most sites. It’s like watching someone scratch their excema.