Power, Corruption and Lies

The latest Corruption Index published by Tranparency International ranks 159 countries by the level of perceived corruption and reveals a world still struggling with the twin axes of evil that are corruption and poverty.

Not surprisingly, the majority of the world’s most corrupt countries featured in the report are the world’s poorest nations such as Chad and Bangladesh, who came in joint last place of the 159 countries covered; Nigeria came in 154th; Kenya, Pakistan and Paraguay (!) were amongst a group of countries in 144th spot with Iraq, Indonesia, Ethiopia and Azerbaijan tieing for 137th.

Venezuela is the next South American country to feature in the list, grouped with the likes of Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan and Papua New Guinea followed by Russia, Albania, Niger and Sierra Leone at 126.

At the other end of the table, the “good” end if you will, Iceland takes the title of world’s least corrupt nation, closely followed by Finland, New Zealand, Denmark and Singapore.

Other notable rankings which may surprise many include the United Kingdom at joint 11th with The Netherlands; Canada 14th and Germany 16th, one spot ahead of the United States, who just push France into 18th. The “Top 20” is completed by Belgium and Ireland with Chile taking the least corrupt in Latin America title in a tie with Japan for 21. My country of residence, Spain, comes in at 23 with a rating of exactly 7 out of 10, most of which is real estate related.

A score of 5 or less is seen as indicating serious corruption problems and almost 120 countries failed to reach this minimum standard, with more than a hundred scoring less than 3, pointing to rampant corruption in both the private and public sectors.

To mark the publication this month of the report, “Corruption is a major cause of poverty as well as a barrier to overcoming it,? said Transparency International Chairman Peter Eigen. “The two scourges feed off each other, locking their populations in a cycle of misery. Corruption must be vigorously addressed if aid is to make a real difference in freeing people from poverty.?

TI Chief Executive David Nussbaum added: “Corruption isn’t a natural disaster, it is the cold, calculated theft of opportunity from the men, women and children who are least able to protect themselves”.

Tranparency International is “the only international non-governmental organisation devoted to combating corruption [and] brings civil society, business, and governments together in a powerful global coalition”.

The Corruption Index “ranks countries in terms of the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians. It is a composite index, drawing on corruption-related data in expert surveys carried out by a variety of reputable institutions. It reflects the views of business people and analysts from around the world, including experts who are locals in the countries evaluated”.

A version of this article is cross-posted here at BlogCritics.

Advertisements

Serious Questions About God

There are many religions on this planet and many of their believers strongly trust that their particular creed is the one and only true faith. As far as I understand it, they all (or at least the vast majority) seem to believe that there is only one God. Setting aside the issue of how many different ways there are of worshipping this singularity, there are a lot of God related questions which always seem to go unanswered. This article is a serious and sincere attempt to outline some outstanding unanswered questions about God.

1. God appears to be unique, one of a kind, a genuine singularity, but is there really only one?

2. If, as all the current religious writings seem to say, there is only one entity of this omnipotent genre, it lives alone. Sure, it has all of us, and possibly all the known universe, its creations, to care for, but is s/he lonely?

3. One of the problems doubters have is the absence of any physical manifestation. Let’s face it, if God turned up in all their terrifying glory, it would instantly squash all questions of existence. If God is alone and possibly lonely, why doesn’t s/he hang out more?

4. On the other hand, perhaps God is not alone, but one of a whole species or race of beings simply way more advanced and evolved than we are. If there are more, where are they? And what are they doing?

5. If God is actually a physical being, s/he must actually be somewhere, even if they are omnipresent and all-knowing. Where is God physically located?

6. As far as we can tell, with our limited understanding, all living things need regular inputs of fuel, what we call food. Does this universal rule also apply to God? And if so, what does s/he eat?

7. As a follow on question, all living things also produce byproducts of the refueling process. If God eats, do they also have waste products and what does s/he do with them?

8. Similarly, all energetic systems produce heat as another byproduct of existence. If s/he consumes, why can’t we detect a heat signature?

9. And whilst pondering these issues, there seems to be certain universal laws of nature. Does God also obey the laws of nature?

10. I, for one, would prefer a universe with active gods that one could call upon for guidance and support – and not only because it would completely change the mostly predictable world in which we live. Does God’s infinite patience and indulgence of us, its creations according to dogma, go to such lengths that if it came to it, s/he would actually allow us to blow ourselves out of existence through the development of ever more terrible weapons?

PLEASE NOTE: This is intended as a serious attempt to have a focussed and intelligent dialogue about the nature of God. It is meant respectfully and not as an attempt to be provocative and/or offensive to anybody’s beliefs. Please respond in a similar spirit and resist the impulse to attack a simple enquiring mind.

This article is also cross-posted here on BlogCritics.

Can all the haters please leave the planet?

Watching the vigil for Anthony Walker, the Liverpool teenager horribly murdered by sick evil racists – who killed poor Anthony with an axe and left it sticking out of the back of his head – I’m sitting here with tears rolling down my face listening to the simple dignity of his mother, Gee Walker. I don’t care who you are or what belief system you claim to support, killing is ALWAYS wrong and life SO precious and fragile.

We desperately need a better world to believe in, one where people don’t kill each, where hundreds of millions of people, people damnit, aren’t starving to death or living in abject poverty, where the rich people of the planet passionately feel that poverty, starvation and disease are simply unacceptable in the so-called modern world, where the colour of your skin just doesn’t matter, where politicians don’t control or exploit us but try to help us have better lives, where we can spend 30 billion Euros to end poverty and not 80 billion to wage war. This is the world that should be our right to live in.

A world that doesn’t take these issues as simple, fundamental basics of civilised living, not vague dreams of hopeless romanticism, is not a world that is fit to consider itself ethical, moral or decent.

Hoping that the more that read this the better, it has been cross-posted here on the wonderful BlogCritics site.

Prince and the New Power Generation website

Prince’s NPG Music Club website

Posted by Alienboy on July 31, 2005 04:18 PM (See all posts by Alienboy)
Filed under: Music, Culture/Tech: Internet, Music: Funk, ReviewScroll down to read comments on this story and/or add one of your own.

Exodus
New Power Generation
Music from Msi
Release date: 02 September, 2003

Dear Prince, NPGMusicClub

Ever since I was introduced to your music, I’ve been a keen fan of your work. It was back in the day when I worked at what used to be one of the great Independent record companies, Rough Trade. I was talking about music with one Bob Scotland, (who was fiercely intellectual, Socialist, Scottish and if memory serves, rather a good bass player also!). He was already a huge fan of yours and slipped me a cassette of your mind-blowing double album “1999? – which was only released as a single album in the UK unfortunately – not that that stopped me getting a copy!

I don’t know what happened to Bob, but I know what happened to me:- a lifelong casual love affair began with your music, and just as important, the implied life style, the funk! I could feel the force!! Since then, you’ve been an important part of my life, for funky music is just so damn sexy – and there is so little of it around these days. You were always there for me when I wanted to bump or grind – or both! And I was always there for you, when you correctly told WB to take a hike, turned yourself into a symbol, formed the New Power Generation (10 years on, “Exodus? is STILL one of the GREAT albums in my life’s soundtrack) and later reclaimed your regal crown, I stood by you, defended you, once almost fought for you.

Prince, when the chance came to review your website, the NPG Music Club I was so excited. I thought it might give me a little taste of what it might have been like to visit the now defunct Glam Slam or get in to Paisley Park for one of those hot live party nights you do sometimes.

What I’m about to say might astound you because, unfortunately, the site really doesn’t do you justice. Even over broadband it’s quite slow to load, the click-on-images-not-text links idea has always been better from a designer’s point of view than a user’s – I want to know where I’m going, damn it, too busy to play guessing games, the whole site is too fussy, and finding the links I want so irritating; you really should go find whoever came up with that idea and slap them upside the head. How many people might not take the time to find their way around? Quite a lot is my guess, so the site effectively discourages people from spending time and money there. It’s also not compatible with modern html standards compliant browsers (that means Firefox if you didn’t get that) so sucks technically.

You’re still one of the greatest American musicians, play a mean guitar (along with almost every other instrument), sing like the devil and all that, but the site could be a lot more, well, fun. That said, I’m thrilled to be a member, and already paid to download 2 albums, but that’s just me. However, the track downloads are clunky and not user friendly. I followed the instructions to the letter but it all went wrong and nothing would play. It’s taken over half an hour with your tech support people, who only work Californian hours, and it’s not been sorted yet. HOPEFULLY it will all get sorted in the end.

And why should I have to download each track of a CD separately? I ought to be able to simply download the whole album in one simple operation. And why don’t you include some information? You know, who played what on which tracks, production credits, the making of, that kind of thing. Printable artwork would be nice too. So you missed out on the chance to cross-sell other stuff by keeping me current and you didn’t enhance the music. SLOPPY!

What’s that? What about the music, you say? Well, that’s another story for another day. You’re still one of the coolest creatures that ever walked this Earth but nowadays I guess we’re hearing the same music but somehow dancing to a different tune…

This review of Prince’s NPGMusicClub is also presented on BlogCritics.

More fine reading at Blogcritics.org. Scroll down to read comments on this story and/or add one of your own. Support Blogcritics.org by shopping at Amazon.com from this page.

Exodus/New Power Generation Prince & The New Power Generation/Prince

What’s all the Fuss about the new Euro Constitution?

What’s all the Fuss about the new Euro Constitution?

Posted by Alienboy on March 23, 2005 03:24 PM (See all posts by Alienboy)
Filed under: Books: Business, Books: Nonfiction, Books: Politics and Affairs, Politics, Politics: Law, Politics: World

A Constitution for the European Union (CESifo Seminar Series)
Dennis C. Mueller
Book from The MIT Press
Release date: 01 September, 2004

Many people have quite heated positions on the subject of the new European Constitution
but to my way of thinking, it’s such a simple no-brainer that at times it’s hard to remember what all the fuss is about.

The proposed reforms will strengthen my rights as a citizen of the New Europe, establish the European Union as a legal body, put an end to the ludicrous 6-month rotating presidency nonsense by creating a permanent post, address the current democratic deficit by strengthening somewhat the European Parliament, reduce the ability of selfish states to hold the EU to ransom by replacing veto rights with qualified majority voting, and creates an exit clause so states who really do want to go it alone can.

Doesn’t seem like a whole big deal to get fussed about really, but for a fuller consideration of the issues, the BBC have a fair and balanced report here

More fine reading at Blogcritics.org.
Support Blogcritics.org by shopping at Amazon.com from this page.

A Constitution for the European Union (CESifo Seminar Series)/Dennis C. MuellerFirst posted on Blogcritics

Welcome to the House of Fun

Welcome to the House of Fun

Posted by Alienboy on March 22, 2005 02:58 PM (See all posts by Alienboy)

Heavy Heavy Hits
Madness
Music from Emi Int’l
Release date: 16 February, 1999

I don’t know how English music (by which I mean music that sounds uniquely English, rather than music made by Brits that simply sounds international) goes down in the USA these days, but there have been some great artists over the years that maybe haven’t done quite as well as they could have in the Americas.

To set the ball rolling here is Madness (crap site btw, don’t go unless you really want to), whose Nutty Ska image and very English voices sometimes obscured a band of impressive musical ability and a wonderful way with words.

This compilation features 23 consecutive hits in chronological order that reveal the depth and diversity of their musical reach, going far beyond their Ska roots, even tracks that you think you know sound different after a gap of years. It took my breath away to re-learn that “Our House? has one of the most perfect openings of any pop song, love that bass burp too!

Titles like “My Girl’s Mad At Me?, “Embarrassment?, “Grey Day?, “Shut Up?, “Tomorrow’s Just Another Day?, “One Better Day? and “Yesterday’s Men? highlight a recurrent theme of loss, alienation, betrayal, fear, an increasing sense of wasted precious time and quiet English desperation forming the core of the Madness experience -desperate but still dancing.

Tracks like “Wings Of A Dove?, “Michael Caine? and the covers of Labi Sifre’s “It Must Be Love? (not too bad, actually) and Scritti Politti’s “The Sweetest Girl? (very bad) reminded me how Madness were not always great and ultimately faded away, probably still “Waiting for the Ghost Train? of Fame to call upon them again.

By the way, both the US & UK sites have the same Amaz(on)ing typos “Night Beat To Cairo? and, my personal favourite, “Yesterday’s Menu?! LOL

This review originally posted on Blogcritics

My First Blogcritique

How Herman Hesse Changed My Life Forever

Posted by Alienboy on March 20, 2005 09:33 PM (See all posts by Alienboy)
Filed under: Books, Books: Philosophy, Books: SFScroll down to read comments on this story and/or add one of your own.

The Glass Bead Game : (Magister Ludi) A Novel
Hermann Hesse
Book from Picador
Release date: 06 December, 2002

As a callow 16 year old virgin, forced by circumstances beyond my control to take premature control of my life, I had many romantic ideas about the world.

Herman Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game completely revolutionised the way I saw the world, showed me the limitations of fixed beliefs and committed me to a life of transcending the usual life options. Or so it seemed at the time, lol

This is a great, if lengthy, book which repays the persistent reader with a wonderful work of fiction, science fiction, a tantalising concept, the Glass Bead Game itself, and a profound understanding of human nature. Great stuff!

I can’t better the writeup at Amazon, so i’ll quote it

“The final novel of Hermann Hesse, for which he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946, The Glass Bead Game is a fascinating tale of the complexity of modern life as well as a classic of modern literature

Set in the 23rd century, The Glass Bead Game is the story of Joseph Knecht, who has been raised in Castalia, the remote place his society has provided for the intellectual elite to grow and flourish. Since childhood, Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and scientific arts, such as mathematics, music, logic, and philosophy, which he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi (Master of the Game).”

The really great thing is that Knecht (German for servant, I suspect), despite his intellectual brilliance, never forgets the importance of simple human life, indeed comes to value it more highly than intellectual perfection.

Many people are fascinated with the game itself and there many sites devoted to it, notably http://www.glassbeadgame.com/

More fine reading at Blogcritics.org.

(Magister Ludi) A Novel/Hermann HesseThis post originally made to Blogcritics