Senator Elizabeth Warren: Asking Sensible Questions

While I’m still in shock that we have at least two senators that actually ‘get it’, it’s still depressing that we have more than seventy (I’m simply being kind) who don’t. Throw in several generations of industry insiders taking over regulatory roles, embedded corporatists throughout our judicial system, news agencies and government, and it’s a wonder that government hearings on accountability even happen.

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Would Robots Care? “No Robots” video

“No Robots” is a touching animation short by YungHan Chang (Taiwan). He and Kimberly Knoll (USA) directed the student film, made at San Jose State University. No Robots was his first animation project. It’s a mostly silent film, so don’t despair if you don’t understand the newscaster at the beginning; it’s quite easy to follow. I’ve always liked the warmth of ‘classic’ line drawn animation and colorization (even if it’s primitively drawn) over the often artificial 3-D computer-generated kind. It’s just easier on the eyes and more folksy. Add in an old city landscape setting and some futuristic themes (anti-robot demonstrations, robots that care) and I’m good to go. Nice job, guys.

A Talk on Creativity by John Cleese

Some observations about creativity before we jump into the excellent John Cleese video below:

When you come up with creative ideas, it’s imperative that you have a way to ‘capture’ them, even if it’s just the seedling of a new idea. You make a sketch or take a picture; you jot down notes or make an audio recording. The point is to make a clear enough representation of your idea while it’s still fresh so that tomorrow (or next month) when you revisit it, it still conveys the properties that made it such a good idea in the first place. Nobody likes waking up from the previous night’s ‘awesome brainstorming session’ and finding three illegible paragraphs and a vague sketch that leave you puzzled as to what all the fuss was about.

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LIBOR in Baltimore and the News; plus Matt Taibbi on LIBOR (video)

The LIBOR scandal isn’t going anywhere. In the literal sense, it isn’t going anywhere because it’s so wide-reaching and involves hundreds of trillions of dollars all over the world. LIBOR, the London Interbank Offered Rate, was purposely manipulated both upward and downward, resulting in obscene ill-gotten profits for many of the banks involved, while many cities and municipalities across the globe were adversely affected. The question of course is whether we will pay attention to it.

The city of Baltimore became one of the first to actually file a lawsuit against the banks earlier this summer, and now a growing number of towns and organizations are also getting in on the act as the implications of what has been happening begin to sink in:

Baltimore is lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit that alleges that banks including Barclays, Bank of America, HSBC, JP Morgan and UBS conspired to fix a set of key interest rates – the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor – costing the city millions in the process. So far, the Libor scandal has played out mostly under the radar in the US. But now it is gaining traction in Washington, and Baltimore’s suit is putting a human face on a scandal legal experts predict could end up being the most costly of the credit crisis.

“It’s an enormous scandal; it eclipses anything we’ve seen since 2008,” said Matt Taibbi, appearing on Democracy Now in July. He calls it “the mother of all regulatory dilemmas….pretty much all of the banks have to be in on it to move the needle [the bank exchange rate] in any one direction.”

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Riusuke Fukahori: Goldfish Salvation

I came across the videos and photos of this wonderful exhibition “Goldfish Salvation” in January when it was still showing in London, yet I still find myself returning to watch it months later because it’s so impressive and inspiring. Painter Riusuke Fukahori just kicks butt, plain and simple.

Even though he only focuses on a single subject matter, goldfish, over and over, his refining of a technique which uses layers of acrylic and resin is a fascinating art-form; and the goldfish never get boring to look at.

This is modern-day art that satisfies on so many levels: it’s innovative, it doesn’t need to be ‘explained’; it’s colorful and amazingly lifelike; it can come in a variety of shapes and sizes and containers; -and even when you get to see him go through the steps from start to completion, it still boggles the mind how the final effect can be so mesmerizing. It’s like watching a magician explain each step of a trick to you and yet you still can’t quite believe your eyes when it happens.

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Creativity: Where Do Good Ideas Come From?

I’ve always liked the image that cartoonists and writers have used to signify a new idea or inspired solution; the thought bubble with the lightbulb aglow. I wonder how the cartoonists handled it before Edison. Maybe they used imagery like a match lighting or the ‘ding-ding’ of a bell or a prospector striking gold.

Something occurs to us all of the sudden, whether it’s regarding a dilemma we’ve been puzzling over recently or an unfinished Great Idea that’s been lying dormant for a few years. We have our “Eureka!” moment and finally get to write the ending to our unfinished article or story, see the perfect plot twist for our movie, come up with a great idea for a new business or invention, or stumble upon an untried approach to a pressing societal need.

Even finding creative “A-ha!”s for how to remodel the living room, think outside the box on a work assignment, or combine the pantry contents into an imaginative improvised meal, creativity and those moments of inspiration can strike at any time in tasks both large and small. Where do the ideas come from? How does the brain navigate through the possibilities and then select the one that seems most appropriate? What makes a good idea and what happens in the brain during those lightbulb moments? Here’s author Steven Johnson’s entertaining animated take on it:

cross-posted at jeff creamer music.

Voodoo Economics: The Trickle-down Fairy Tale

It’s been over three decades now since a prominent Republican politician referred to his competitor’s trickle down economic plans as a sham and gave them a deserving name: voodoo economics. After losing to the trickle down huckster in the primaries however, George H.W. Bush gladly jumped at the opportunity to join his opponent’s ticket in the VP slot and conveniently forgot all about his critique of voodoo economics; opting instead to support and promote those very policies for the next eight years as our vice president, followed by four more years as our 41st president.

That April 1980 slag during a stump speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he also referred to Ronald Reagan’s tax cut philosophy as “economic madness”, appears to have been the last time any prominent  politician on the right dared to utter a word against an economic policy that soon became their mantra, their religion, their raison d’etre. Businessmen and economic experts still extol it, the Republican base consider it an Unwavering Truth on par with the Constitution and the Bible, and hapless media lapdogs parrot its points uncritically despite all evidence to the contrary.

So here we are, three decades later, with a thoroughly wrecked and twisted economy after following that foolish plan through five administrations. Record levels of national debt, record levels of wealth and income disparity, record levels of economic immobility for the American worker. And instead of questioning the very premise of its assertions, instead of drawing the obvious conclusions to be gleaned from the reams of data staring out at us, we continue to allow the crazed adherents of this cult to prattle on about it and give it legitimacy despite all evidence to the contrary.

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